It seems that the further we get into 2010, the more films we find from 2009 that we either had never heard of previously, or made little impact during their initial release. The Boys are Back is one such film, although those of us in the US who hadn’t heard of it earn a bit of a reprieve—the film only just came out this past November and even then was in barely over 100 theaters countrywide. It’s not all that unheard of, of course, for a film to not go wide…but when you have Clive Owen in the lead, it’s a bit curious to not advertise or take it further. Still, the material the film presents is heavy and it would have been doubtful if it would have found a wider audience than the one it will undoubtedly receive on DVD.
The death of his wife leaves wisecracking sportswriter Joe Warr (Clive Owen) with a curious six year-old (Nicholas McAnulty) and a rebellious teen from a previous marriage (George MacKay) to bring up in a household devoid of feminine influence. So Joe takes on parenting the only way he knows how—full throttle. With an exuberance born of necessity, he teaches his boys to meet the joy and fragility of life head on. The Boys Are Back chronicles the fierce love and loyalty the three Warr men discover for each other as they make their way through the trials of everyday life.
It’s rare that a film and punch you in the emotional gut within the first fifteen minutes of it starting, but The Boys are Back does this with exceptional grace and poise. I knew going into the film the rough plot, but the way it presents the tear-jerking death of the mother early on not only sets the mood for the rest of the film but also is key in letting you know just how profound a loss it was for our main characters. It may be a bit melodramatic and “cheap” in the way it plays out early on, but the film definitely knows how to get the emotional hook in right from the start and let it stick.
Of course it helps that the film is also very well written. It’s got a few sappy moments here and there (and Owen’s character talking to his dead wife’s imaginary ghost [or whatever it was] was kind of “out there” at first), but for the most part it’s a very heartwarming type of film. It tackles the difficulties of being a single parent as well as the task of raising two boys. Admittedly it’s not something I’m familiar with, but I can at least try to imagine the difficulty of such a situation, and compiling it with the boys (well, boy in this films case) loss of their mother as well as your wife…it just makes things even harder to relate to. But sadly it’s not a terribly unfamiliar story; so while the subject matter is grim, the execution and handling of it is really done quite well.
Some of it is a bit unbelievable, of course, as the boys in the film are really well-behaved already for the most part. Had the older one, from a different marriage, been more rebellious, it would’ve no doubt casted a different shadow onto the film. Instead they all act as kind of a cohesive, loving, and of course dysfunctional family. While their situation isn’t something that everyone (thankfully) can relate to, the feelings they have, unknown and known, are something we can all share with the film. Of course that sounded unbelievably sappy and I assure you no such scene in the film will make your teeth hurt quite as much as that sentence did.
There is a lot of growing that goes on in this film. Both from the boys’ perspectives as well as Owen’s, who ends up in a tiny romantic situation with one of the mothers (Emma Booth) from his sons’ school. It’s a bit forced and her disapproval of his raising methods is probably echoed by most in the audience…but more importantly than the incredulous way his methods seem to work at times (and don’t in others), the film doesn’t try to pass off the situation as something that isn’t questionable; there are plenty of people in the world the film inhabits that wonder about how the boys’ are being raised…but it’s a journey that the audience goes on along with them.
The film isn’t rife with new ideas or originality, but it is a very enjoyable film nonetheless. It’s a solid tearjerker as well as a film that will just bring a smile to your face and because of that I Recommend this film to anyone in the market for such a feeling of warm fuzzies. While not as good as The Blindside, I’d put it in the same “sad but happy” category, so if you enjoyed that film then this one should be right up your alley as well.
The Boys are Back arrives on DVD in a standard amaray DVD case with a…Blu-ray insert? Yeah for some reason they included an insert for the Blu-ray format, despite this film not even being available on Blu-ray. Disc art is a plain grey wash and the menu system is nicely laid out and easy to navigate. The video transfer for this film is solid and does not disappoint. Colors are warm and the beach front scenery of Australia looks fantastic. Audio is a DD5.1 mix, although admittedly it’s a bit overkill for such a film. It’s mostly dialogue driven and as such you’ll get most of the audio out of the front channels. But what is there is crystal clear and without distortion or hiss.
Extras are very limited, but include:
A Photographic Journey – with Optional Commentary by Director Scott Hicks (16:22)
A Father and Two Sons, on Set (1:44)
The “Photographic Journey” is like a mini-commentary of sorts as it goes over the production process quite briefly, but over a nice little photo montage. The other extra is so brief that it’s kind of a “why bother?” type thing. I would’ve liked a full length commentary (as usual) but for such a small film I guess the extras aren’t all that surprising.
The Boys Are Back arrives on DVD on January 26th.