Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Boys Are Back

Australian Joe Warr (Clive Owen) seems to lead an idyllic life: he has a great job as a sportswriter, which takes him away quite often, and he has a wonderful wife and young son who adore him. One day, however, they discover that his wife (Laura Fraser) has inoperable cancer, and, very soon within the story, she dies.

The movie is "inspired by a true story" when a journalist's wife died and he was forced to actually be a dad. What complicates The Boys Are Back is that his teenage son from a previous marriage has announced that he wants to come stay with dad as well. The movie examines how Joe deals with his relationships with his children, helps the younger one grieve as he, too, is grieving, and, mainly, what mistakes he makes along the way.

This is the best thing Clive Owen has ever done, and I'm sure very few people will see it because of its unexciting themes. The difference is in the material, the original book from which the screenplay was written. While Owen is usually depicted as a risk-taking special agent or somesuch, he's very often in the most godawful written material. The Boys Are Back is a common theme, but presents an original way of handling it. The movie doesn't sugarcoat Joe's situation. If you think kids are tough to handle, and unpredictable, you'd be right.

I really liked the fact that the screenplay and director (Scott Hicks) didn't leap for the obvious for Joe: finding that next female to take over in raising the kids while Joe travels throughout Australia and to the Olympics, etc., for his work. Oh, Joe tries to do that, but the women in his life won't stand for it. That felt true, and, in retrospect, is quite humorous. In addition, Joe's "no rules" kind of parenting is funny in retrospect, but, as any parent could predict, rather funny in its disaster-making qualities.

I would recommend The Boys Are Back for a real tale of how a father deals with his new family. Thumb's up.


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