The Boys Are Back Review
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Different kinds of movie lovers tend to look for different kinds of things. Take, for instance, the Weepies—those who seek out movies about death and sickness and star-crossed love, just so they can have a good cry. Weepies rush out to see movies like My Sister’s Keeper—or anything based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. They might also flock to a movie like The Boys Are Back—the story of a widower who’s trying to adjust to life as a single dad. But they might be surprised to find that it isn’t all that weepy, after all.

After losing his wife, Katy (Laura Fraser), to cancer, sports writer Joe Warr (Clive Owen) finds himself alone in a big house in the middle of the Australian countryside with his six-year-old son, Artie (Nicholas McAnulty). Since his job often takes him away from home for weeks at a time, Joe hasn’t been very active in Artie’s life—so, although his mother-in-law offers to take care of Artie, Joe decides to make up for lost time. It’s a job that’s easier said than done, though. After all, he doesn’t really know how to be a parent—and he definitely doesn’t know how to clean the house.

With some help from Laura (Emma Booth), the mother of one of Artie’s classmates, Joe and Artie finally manage to get back to some sort of regular schedule. But then Harry (George MacKay), Joe’s teenage son from a previous marriage, arrives from England for a visit, and the three form an awkward threesome of lost boys.

The simple beauty of South Australia makes the perfect setting for this simple yet beautiful story. Inspired by a true story (and based on the book, The Boys Are Back in Town, by Simon Carr), The Boys Are Back tells an honest and heartfelt story about grief, recovery, and family bonding. It’s a simple film—more a naturally flowing slice-of-life drama than a structured story. There isn’t a whole lot of action—or a whole lot of plot, for that matter—which might be frustrating for some. But its quiet simplicity also makes it a pleasingly uncomplicated film.

Fortunately (at least for us non-Weepies), despite its rather sorrowful subject matter, it’s not the manipulative sob-fest that some might expect. Of course, some of the opening scenes (of Katy’s illness and subsequent death) are, admittedly, pretty heavy. In fact, it’s safe to call them heartbreaking. Yet the film doesn’t feel sappy or excessively sentimental. The characters’ grief (or, in Harry’s case, his insecurity) does give the story a melancholy tone at times—and it’s always there, in the background. But it’s often left right there—in the background—as the three Warrs enjoy their time together. Together, they’re playful. They’re messy. They’re reckless. At times, they’re even joyful. And Owen and his young costars have such an easy-going chemistry that it all feels completely natural—and sweetly heartwarming.

Of course, if you’re in the mood for a cleansing, tissue-soaking cry, The Boys Are Back might be a bit too light for your taste. But, for the rest of us, it’s a refreshing drama that’s emotional—but not excruciating.

DVD Review:
The DVD release of The Boys Are Back includes just a couple of extras—but both are worth a look. A Father and Two Sons, On Set is a short featurette that shows the real-life Joe Warr (a.k.a. Simon Carr) and his sons as they bond with their on-screen counterparts on set. And The Boys Are Back: A Photographic Journey is a different kind of making-of feature, which takes viewers behind the scenes through a series of still photographs. Though you can watch the feature without commentary (with only music to accompany it), it’s more interesting to hear director Scott Hicks discuss the process as the pictures appear onscreen. In a way, it’s like an abbreviated director’s commentary track; it lets you to take a peek behind the scenes without having to rewatch the entire film (or sit through a long making-of feature).

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