Starring: Clive Owen, George McKay
Directed by: Scott Hicks
Movie Released: 2009
As many of you may have noticed as of late, I have been trying to call attention to some of the little films out there on rental shelves that you may not know exist. The reason for this is not because I have some film “snob” like goal to bash anything that is mainstream. In fact it is just the opposite. Some of my favorite films happen to be some of the most generic, mainstream films a person could watch. If you don’t believe me, ask me how many times I have seen Office Space, or Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby in the last few months. (The answer is actually quite shameful thanks to a little help from TBS). Instead, the goal is simply to let my readers know that there are other options out there: Options that we as movie critics sometimes over look.
I can’t begin to tell you how many blogs and critics that I have read that are more than happy to tell you about the new summer blockbusters, but fail to bring to the light of day a film that few have heard of just because they fear no one will click the link, read the article or give the film a shot. Today, I bring to you one of those films, a film called The Boys Are Back.
One time Bond favorite, Clive Owen, has made a wealth of film choices since turning down the role as 007, and has led a career that hasn’t quite cemented his place in Hollywood as a leading man. Try as he may, and a gifted actor he is, he somehow has not managed to push out into the limelight the way many people wish that he would. Owen’s latest project, The Boys are Back, thrusts him headfirst into a leading role; a struggling single father fighting grief, his own demons and a way of life that he never planned. As a once divorced, now remarried man, Joe (Clive Owen) thought he had the perfect life. He had a beautiful wife, a young son and a job as a sports writer that kept him jetting around the world. However, when his wife falls ill with cancer, Joe finds himself alone, and a newly single father with a son who’s never “lived” with his father. While struggling to deal with his own grief and learning how to comfort his own son, Joe’s teenage son from his first marriage suddenly winds up on Joe’s doorstep asking to spend the summer with him as well. Joe is forced to find a way of figuring out what it is truly like to be a father figure.
The Boys Are Back doesn’t try to do anything crazy, or outlandish. It’s story is a simple one that tugs a bit at your heart strings. As a viewer you make a connection with Joe, and feel for him and his loss. Joe’s heart is in the right place, but he would be the first to tell you that he feels like a fish out of water with out his late wife. The Boys are Back takes you down that man’s journey and is one of those almost feel good movies that shows you that sometimes the unexpected, regardless of how terrible it may be, can become a blessing in disguise.
The films biggest draw is of course Owen, who does a wonderful job in the role. He’s heartfelt and believable and works very well with the two child actors that accompany him in the film. George McKay, who plays Owen’s teenage son, is a young up and comer that may be a person to watch in the years to come. He’s already received some critical praise over seas, and as he matures as an actor we may see more of him in domestic product as well. Directorially, Scott Hicks, does a very nice job of keeping the film’s focus tight and concise and not too over bearing. The film feels a little more “made for TV” than his previous works, 1996’s Shine, and 2001’s Hearts in Atlantis. None the less, I say “made for TV” with much hesitation; after all the film looks and feels of a higher quality than your average network TV movie.
Visually the film is filled full of the beautiful landscapes of Australia, and Hicks does a wonderful job of working with his cinematographer to bring out the beauty of the landscape around them. Somehow the setting actually enhances the film even more, and the way that Hicks and company were able to do that with such style and grace deserves a big pat on the back.
If someone twisted my arm and asked me to say something “bad” about The Boys Are Back, I think it would be simply the lack of originality. This story is one that has been told before. You’ve heard and seen variations of it for years, and to expect this film to bring something new to the table story wise would just be silly. None the less, the story is only one part of the whole, and you need to judge the film as a sum of its parts. On many levels, I felt The Boys Are Back works well as a film. It achieves exactly what it sets out to do, and is a great little film that slipped through the cracks. If you get a chance to check it out, Its a film I recommend for your next movie night.