The Boys Are Back
Always listen to Clive Owen if he says to eat your vegetables … especially carrots.

Golden Mug

Adapted Screenplay (Allan Cubitt (screenplay), Simon Carr (novel))
Cinematography (Greig Fraser)

Theatrical Release Date: 10/02/2009 (USA), 11/12/2009 (Australia)
Director: Scott Hicks
Cast: Clive Owen, Nicholas McAnulty, George MacKay, Emma Booth, Laura Fraser, Alexandra Schepisi, Erik Thomson, Natasha Little

As loyal readers are well aware of, I love just about anything and everything Australian. I’ve been Down Under a few times and hope to go back again in the not too distant future. There’s a energy, a vibe, to the country and its peoples that captivates me. This carries through in their films for the most part and while not enough of them trickle stateside, the ones that do usually manage to resonate strongly with me.

Such is the case with “The Boys Are Back”. Clive Owen is thrust into the role of single father and must learn to connect not only with his young son from his most recent marriage but also his eldest son, who has been living in his native England since the previous marriage ended. At its core, the film is about growing up, not just for the kids but for Owen as well – who has spent most of his adult life being a big kid and enjoying all the perks that come with being a successful sports writer in a country that loves little more than its sports.

To that end, Owen was a fantastic choice for the role, as he does so well with characters that are a mix of despondent, frustrated and angry … all while maintaining a big sense of heart and the driest of wit. The situation he finds himself in is instantly sympathetic and audiences will find it easy to connect with him and his sons’ plight.

Of course, in order for the film to work you had better cast young actors capable of handling the serious material on hand. Both Nicholas McAnulty and George MacKay acquit themselves well. Perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay them is that they felt genuine. Rather than coming off as too precocious or an overly seasoned child actor, it’s quite easy to imagine that the casting director had simply pulled them off of the street and handed them the script. They deal with emotionally charged scenes quite well and have a nice chemistry with Owen.

Compliments are also due Laura Fraser and Emma Booth, who play Owen’s late wife and possible new beau, respectively. Each of them imbue a tremendous amount of femininity to an otherwise male dominated film and help Owen to grow not only as a father but as a person. It’s also very refreshing to see that screenwriter Allan Cubitt took Simon Carr’s novel and presented a screenplay that wasn’t firmly tied to all the usual plot points one normally expects. I did find that the film’s resolution comes in a rush and seems to push characters to make conclusions that normally take a bit longer to come to but it’s hard to argue with the end result.

From a production standpoint, kudos must go to cinematographer Greig Fraser who utilized light so beautifully throughout the picture and although one might say it would be hard to mess up the gorgeous landscape of Adelaide and South Australia on display, I’ve seen plenty of big budget films do exactly that. Also, the music in the film is well placed, largely composed of songs by the Icelandic band Sigur Rós although a number of Australian bands also make the cut.

“The Boys Are Back” is a charming, heart-warming picture that should satisfy just about anyone who enjoys the dramatic genre and I can’t recommend it highly enough. A solid 4 out of 5, even if you aren’t as smitten with the Land Down Under as I am, this is still one of the few films each year worth your time and money.