Starring: Clive Owen, George MacKay, Nicholas McAnulty
Directed by: Scott Hicks (“Shine”)
Written by: Allan Cubitt (“St. Ives”)
As a film about fathers and sons, Academy Award-nominated director Scott Hicks’ “The Boys Are Back” doesn’t break any new ground thematically, but still offers a sweet and touching tale that never strays into sappiness like most films of this nature might.
That’s not to say, however, that “Boys” won’t push your sensitivity buttons on occasion. The story follows Joe Warr, a sportswriter living in Australia who must cope with the passing of his wife and face the major responsibility her death carries when he realizes his young son Artie (Nicholas McAnulty) now has only one parent to depend on.
Joe wouldn’t be considered the greatest of fathers. He’s the kind of dad that goes on the road for work and makes up for his absenteeism by bringing home gifts. While he may not always be around, Artie loves him and promises to keep him company after his mother passes away. “I’ll stay down here with you for now,” Artie says right after expressing his desire to die so he can be with his mother.
It’s a rocky start toward rebuilding their lives as Joe and Artie attempt to feel each other out. Joe makes life for both of them less strenuous by adopting a seemingly reckless parenting strategy that has him complying with all his child’s requests. If Artie wants to cannonball into the tub, Joe allows it. If he wants to ride on top of the hood of the car, Joe gives the go-ahead. Water balloon fights in the house? Why not? You only live once, right?
Things get more complicated in the household when Joe’s teenage son from a previous marriage Harry (George MacKay, who is a mirror image of Rupert Grint of “Harry Potter” fame), travels from London to visit him and Artie in Australia. With so many questions plaguing his troubled teenage mind about why his father abandoned him to start a new life, Harry is determined to know how much of it was his fault.
At its core, “The Boys Are Back” is a story of one father’s desperateness to find a middle ground to stand on with his two sons all while juggling his own emotions and surprisingly flexible career. While it’s an inspired attempt overall, there are too many hairline fractures throughout screenwriter Allan Cubitt’s script, which he adapted from Simon Carr’s novel of the same name, to fully recommend it. Owen gives an honest performance, but Cubitt doesn’t draw enough defined lines to connect the boys on an emotional level as the story progresses.