Netflix viewers haunted by ‘heartbreaking’ child abuse drama Big Boys Don’t Cry


Netflix users have reacted to the streamer’s recent addition, a “heartbreaking” child abuse drama titled Big Boys Don’t Cry.

The British drama was released in 2020 but was only recently added to Netflix, on 23 December.

Big Boys Don’t Cry partly fictionalises the real life story of Paul Connolly, who was abandoned in a dustbin as a two-week-old baby and later abused at the infamous St Leonard’s children’s home in Essex, where children were routinely subjected to physical and sexual abuse.

This Is England star Michael Socha plays Connolly as an adult, with newcomer Mitchell Norman playing the younger version of the character.

St Leonard’s was a children’s home in Essex that was operated by Tower Hamlets London Borough Council. It operated from the late Sixties until the early Eighties.

According to The Guardian, the home saw 3,000 children pass through its doors until it closed in 1984. Numerous children at St Leonard’s were abused and raped by multiple staff members.

The drama stars Brett Fancy as Bill Starling, a house parent who assaulted or raped 11 victims aged from five years old to 14 over a 20-year-period. Starling was jailed for 14 years in 2001.

Big Boys Don’t Cry is set between Connolly’s childhood and his twenties, when he is released from prison and works as a bouncer. He is forced to confront his abusive childhood when the death of his boyhood friend triggers a police investigation.


In real life, Connolly never went to prison. After he learned to read when he was 25, he wrote and self-published a bestselling memoir, titled Against All Odds, in 2010.

At the time of writing, the drama is in the Top 10 of movies on Netflix, with many viewers sharing their reactions to the film on Twitter.

“Jesus, just watched Big Boys Don’t Cry on Netflix. What a horrific story, so hard to watch. I can’t get my head around what those boys went through,” wrote one person.

Another wrote: “I’ve just watched Big Boys Don’t Cry on Netflix. How on earth people can be so cruel is beyond me. I’ve cried my eyes out. It’s not for the faint hearted. A true story. Absolutely heartbreaking.”

“Everyone should watch Big Boys Don’t Cry, which is now on Netflix,” wrote one viewer. “It’s a good reminder that children are so vulnerable to abuse & we should never stop shouting about abuse, whether articles, podcasts, or movies. Survivor stories must be heard.”

A fourth person wrote: “Big Boys Don’t Cry on Netflix has broken my heart and made me so angry at the same time.”

“Decided I wasn’t depressed enough so I watched Big Boys Don’t Cry and omg this is why I don’t go on Netflix. How absolutely heartbreaking,” said another.

Someone else wrote: “Watching Big Boys Don’t Cry on Netflix and I’m really crying here. This is so sad.”

Big Boys Don’t Cry is available to watch on Netflix now.

If you are a child and you need help because something has happened to you, you can call the NSPCC free of charge on 0800 1111. You can also call the NSPCC if you are an adult and you are worried about a child, on 0808 800 5000. The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac) offers support for adults on 0808 801 0331.

If you’re worried about a child, even if you’re unsure, you can contact professional counsellors at the NSPCC for help, advice and support by emailing or calling 0808 800 5000. For those aged 18 or under, Childline offers free, confidential advice and support whatever your concern and whenever you need help. Call 0800 1111 or Contact Childline.