The Boys Are Back
Directed by Scott Hicks
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 104 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 29.99
Release Date: January 26, 2010
Review Date: January 18, 2010
Based on a true story, Scott Hicks’ The Boys Are Back is quite similar in tone to the first half of Kramer Vs. Kramer. It isn’t a slavish imitation of that scenario, of course, but the combination of comedy and drama that infuses the domestic situation that forms the core of the story is very similar to the Oscar-winning classic. With no chance of the mother’s return, of course, the film does veer off in a completely different direction eventually, but the end result is a warm, funny, and appealing story that just misses that little something extra that would have moved a good film into being a great one.
After the death of his young wife (Laura Fraser) of six years, widower Joe Warr (Clive Owen) is left with a six-year old son (Nicholas McAnulty) and no clue of how to raise him. With both father and son in their own states of deep grief, the road to mental health and everyday stability is a treacherous one traversed tentatively and only moderately successfully after many missteps and bad ideas. When Joe’s teenaged son Harry (George MacKay) from his first marriage takes a leave of absence from his pricey British prep school and joins his father and new half-brother in Australia, the family of three males takes on an entirely new dynamic with even more new life lessons to be learned every day. Being a single parent becomes even more difficult when Joe’s boss demands that his star sportswriter start covering games in person and not from the confines of his living room.
Allan Cubitt’s screenplay is based on the real-life story of Simon Carr related in his book The Boys Are Back in Town. We’re presented with a shorthand view of the Warr’s idyllic marriage during the film’s first quarter hour in lovely flashback moments that instill the closeness of the couple and the happy family they have so that when cancer takes her away, the remainder of the film never really escapes her loss as every scene, even the joyous ones, seems tinged by a subtle kind of melancholy (even going so far as to have Joe and his late wife communicate on occasion as if she were still there). It’s to writer Cubitt and director Scott Hicks’ credit that they don’t succumb to the easy solution of pairing Joe up with an eligible and interested divorcee (Emma Booth) but keep the story completely in terms of a masculine world mostly devoid of feminine touches. Joe’s policy of free-wheeling parenting will no doubt raise quite a few eyebrows, but the bond established is a loving one, and that union eventually strengthens once the third male enters the story. Hicks takes his guys over the southern Australian countryside and captures some stunning shots with father and son running over rocks at the seaside and some blazing vistas with light and green as far as the eye can see.
Clive Owen’s ability to be both tough and tender is put to majestic use in the picture, and there won’t be a dry eye in the house as the film comes to its heart wrenching conclusion. The two boys, George MacKay and Nicholas McAnulty, have a natural ease in front of the camera, and their connection is palpable. Emma Booth displays some hard-edged charm as the local divorcee not adverse to becoming part of the family, and Julia Blake as Joe’s mother-in-law has a love-hate relationship with him that’s completely believable and true.
The film’s 2.35:1 Panavision aspect ratio is delivered in a transfer that’s anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. Sharpness in medium and close shots is very good, and the Australian countryside looks stunning in many shots apart from some minor smearing occasionally in long shots. There is a fair degree of aliasing present later on in the film, particularly when the action returns to Harry’s prep school, but other artifacts like edge enhancement are not a problem. The film has been divided into 18 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track stays mostly front and center for the majority of the film with occasional flashes of the rears used for Hal Lindes’ spare but effective music score. The LFE channel does not really have much to do in this particular sound design.
“The Boys Are Back: A Photographic Journey” is a 16 ½ -minute moving montage of photographs taken during filming and behind-the-scenes, all available with either commentary by director Scott Hicks (including descriptions of several scenes deleted from the movie) or with only a background musical accompaniment.
“A Father and Two Sons, On Set” finds Simon Carr and his two sons whose story forms the basis of the film’s scenario visiting the set and meeting the two actors playing the sons on-screen. This brief featurette runs for 1 ¾ minutes and is in anamorphic widescreen.
The disc contains trailers for The Last Song, Surrogates, Everybody’s Fine¸ and When in Rome, among others. The trailer for The Boys Are Back is not provided.
3.5/5 (not an average)
A moving and warm domestic drama, The Boys Are Back is one of those small, intimate films that often gets overlooked when surrounded by big budget blockbusters. Excellent acting and a memorable story combine for a fine family drama (though it is rated PG-13 for several instances of teenaged profanity.)