Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Boys Are Back

Just say “yes.” A simple slogan for child rearing that spells disaster. Sports writer Simon Carr wrote a novel based on the situation he was left in, raising a young boy, following the loss of his wife to cancer. Carr struggled with his relationship, realizing that it had become too easy to say no. “If a child asks to play together in the river, we automatically respond ‘no, I have to go buy milk.’” Carr’s fictional counterpart, Joe Warr (Clive Owen) takes the concept to dangerous levels, speeding along the beach with his younger son Artie (Nicholas McAnulty) sitting on the hood in front of the windscreen or allowing his to jump from a ledge in the bathroom into the tub. This reckless parenting style becomes further complicated when Warr’s teenage son Harry (George Mackay) asks to come live in Australia with him.

With the arrival of Warr’s son from his first marriage, the home dynamic becomes a bit more complicated. Although there appears to be some favoritism towards the younger son (from the second marriage) and the eight year age difference, the two boys grow very close. The house is filthy, the boys have very little structure and Warr does not ask much from the boys. What should be easy living bounces from obnoxious silly fun to a very dangerous scenario. Warr realizes that his lifestyle requires adjustments and struggles to do damage control to win back his oldest son.

The Boys Are Back is a touching drama based on the true story of Simon Carr. The film is based on Carr’s novel, with the screenplay adapted by Allan Cubitt. It is hard to tell how much of the story is fiction and what percentage is fantasy. It would be interesting to know where the line is drawn. The film is a touching examination of the family dynamic combined with superb drama and offbeat humor. Although not laugh-out-loud funny, the comedy elements were sweet and subtle. The dialogue was rich with the English and Australian vocabulary requiring a bit of attention at times. The characters were well developed with great interaction and surprising believability. The plot was predictable with a simple ending that was as fulfilling as it was expected. Overall, the writing provided a fresh examination of family dynamics with interesting characters, excellent drama and some well-placed levity.

I am a fan of Clive Owen. His performance in The Boys Are Back was consistent with the excellence that I have grown to expect from him. Because the plot requires Owen's character to be likeable (but with major issues) it required a special actor to make the role work. Owen was that actor. I was impressed with his grittiness and tenderness equally. The balance made the character connect. It made the audience want Warr to succeed and get his family back together. Owen deserves a look when the awards come around. Laura Fraser appears in a limited capacity as Warr’s second wife, Laura. She provided a nice balance in some of the scenes where Warr was unsure which direction to go. Although limited, her appearances were solid. The film also requires strong performances and good chemistry from MacKay and McAnulty, which both delivered. The characters were adequately brought to life by an exceptional cast.

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