Boys Are Back
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Boys Are Back

How we view a film has to be filtered through the prism of the events and situations in our lives. A film that may barely register at one point may seem far more pertinent in light of various personal circumstances. With the Australian movie ‘The Boys Are Back’ I usually would consider this yet another overly melodramatic story of the relationship between a father and his son. The premise of the story hinges on the man losing his wife. Reviewing this movie came across my desk two days after my wife of thirty five years passed away. Because of this personal emotional backdrop I do admit that I was able to achieve a greater degree of identification with the protagonist than I normally would have been able to achieve. With that said this movie is better than most in this particular genre. The script is cohesive, the direction straight forward and the acting very good for this sort of film. In all this makes for a very reasonable evening of entertain with you are in for the proverbial laugh and then cry flick. It is also an excellent example of why independent film is so extremely vital to the art of cinema. There is just no way that a movie like this would be considered by a major studio. Even though there are some notable stars in the film the story is just not conducive to becoming a major box office draws. It is doubtful that the studios would be able to show any real profit in a theatrical release. Still, this is a story that truly deserves to be told. Like many films that proclaim ‘based on a true story’ there is little doubt that a good amount of dramatic license was employed here. The film has a ring of honesty to it not the prefabricated Hollywood contrived style. Thankfully, you no longer have to live in a big city near an art house theater to appreciate a film like this, with the growing acceptance of DVD as a means of releasing movies like this there is a far better opportunity to reach the audience it deserves. In this case the distribution comes through a name with increasing visibility in the Indy sphere, Miramax.

The basis of the film is the semi-autobiographical novel by Simon Carr, transformed into a screenplay by Allan Cubitt. Most of his resume is concerned with television treatments of literary classics including ‘Holmes’ and’ Anna Karenina’. While new to theatrical scripts he at least has the experience in preserving the tone and essence of a literary work. So many writers new to this format would tend to a story more suitable for ‘Lifetime’ even though the less are male. There is a way he presents the story with just the right blend of emotional gravitas and natural exuberance that the movie is believable. There are technical flaws that some seem ready to dwell upon but I found that just made the film more endearing. After all life isn’t perfectly polished so a movie intended to detail one of the most difficult emotional times imaginable should have rough edges. There is an annoyance factor here that has to be placed in context for the best understanding of the movie. The father, Joe Warr (Clive Owen) responds to sudden single parenting by becoming overly permissive. I can see where this plot point comes in. Joe is numb from all that has hit him. Try as he might his life has been spinning out of control \and giving in to the often bratty boys is just taking the path of least resistance.

Joe has been having a bit of a rough patch in his life. His marriage has been on the rock and he recently got a divorce. While on assignment in his job as a sports writer he meets a young woman, Laura (Laura Fraser) and soon they are wed in the stories like this just as they are at the pinnacle of happiness a cloud appears on the horizon and in a short time Joe finds himself a widower with two young sons; seven year old Artie (Nicholas McAnulty) and teenaged Harry (George MacKay, from his previous marriage. Joe’s own father was also a writer and frequently absent from his childhood home so he doesn’t have much experience, either first hand or by example, of how to be a father. Now, suddenly, he is a single father of two rambunctious boys. The film was directed by Scott Hicks, and Australian film maker who returns to his native land for the first time since he burst on the mainstream stage with his Oscar nominated ‘Shine’. The pacing is uneven, perhaps intentionally. Joe is trying his best to navigate his lamentable circumstances and has become too overwhelmed by life to stop and consider the long term effects of his overly permissible style of parenting. His sons are constantly acting out. Maybe this is a natural reaction and part of their grieving process but they are children and as the film points out they need a strong parental influence not another best friend. Joe does try to find some personal contact from another adult by forming a relationship with the mother of one of Artie’s friends, Laura (Emma Booth). Joe is a bit torn with his feelings divided between having another grow-up to help and the possibility of a normal relationship. This is very much an actor’s film. Owen has developed a reputation for playing intense roles as in ‘Children of Men’ and Sin City’. Here he demonstrates that his range extends to include less physical but still emotionally charged movies. The two young actors playing his sons display a command of their craft far beyond their years. They have the control necessary to portray kids adrift in their own conflict.

Posted 01/16/2010

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