In the Picture
The Boys are Back
Directed by Scott Hicks
I must be getting soft. I never used to cry at the movies but recently I found myself tearing up when Li Cunxin’s parents were brought on stage in Mao’s Last Dancer. Now The Boys are Back has turned me into a weeping mess. In the first 15 minutes we see six-year-old Artie (Nicholas McAnaulty) watching his mum die of cancer, leaving him and his dad, Joe (Clive Owens), to fend for themselves.
Joe’s initial response to deal with his grief is to go on a road trip with his son so they can spend some time together. He comes to the conclusion that the easiest way of coping in his new single-parent world is to “just say yes” because it reduces the conflict.
Time-consuming chores like cleaning are abandoned and Joe is drinking heavily and clearly drowning in the chaos of trying to maintain his job as a sports journalist while looking after Artie on his own. Then his teenage son, Harry (George McKay), from a previous marriage in England, announces he wants to come and spend some time with dad in Australia.
Somehow they manage to find a kind of dysfunctional but happy co-existence. Into this picture comes Laura (Emma Booth), the mother of one of Artie’s school friends and the attraction between her and Joe lobs an emotional hand grenade into an already volatile mix.
When Joe has to go away to cover the Australian Open tennis tournament, leaving Harry in charge of his little brother for a couple of days, it all goes pear-shaped.
This is a beautiful film that deals with love, relationships and parenting in the modern world.
Shot on the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia, it is a masterful piece of film making that manages to capture the beauty of the Australian landscape and convey a depth of emotion rarely seen in cinema. The insights into the emotional landscape of all three boys, (and yes, Joe probably could be considered a boy in many ways) is a credit to writers Simon Carr and Allan Cubitt and director Scott Hicks (Shine).
If you’re not afraid of tearing up a bit in the cinema, (it’s dark; no-one will see you) then go and see this life-affirming film.