Written by Pollo Misterioso
Maybe it’s because it’s based on a true story and life is inevitably complicated, but when translated to the screen The Boys Are Back tackles too many intense issues leaving the viewer unsure of what to think or really feel.
This Australian production is not without wonderful elements as director Scott Hicks and the entire cast, including lead actor Clive Owen, do a remarkable job at bringing these real-life characters to the silver screen. It is just that there is one message and too many elements that don’t get properly addressed that make this film feel unfinished.
Joe Warr (Owen) is a popular sports journalist that must deal with being a single parent and managing both of his sons after the sudden death of his wife, Katy. To make things more complicated, his oldest son Harry, from his first wife, comes to visit right after the death of Katy.
The first part of the film sets up Katy’s character and the intense impact on the family when she passes away. Joe ends up taking his youngest son, Artie, on a road trip to escape the emotional pressure that he is feeling from the family and himself. Often times he speaks to Katy and she is there. It never feels unbelievable, but intensifies the loneliness and fear Joe is experiencing. When Harry arrives, the family unit struggles to find a way to coexist.
Both sons are the most interesting and complicated part of the film. Artie has a hard time adjusting to his mother dying, asking if she will be gone forever and saying that he wants to die to be close to her. He is tyrannical and often selfish but frequently collapses in moments of despair when he thinks of his mom. He is played perfectly as you care about how he is developing and how he is handling this grief, because at six-years-old death is not something that can be fully comprehended. Harry is a teenager and not only is struggling with puberty, but he is trying to understand why his father left him for another woman and another family. Unfortunately, his story is never fully developed and although it is very touching, any kind of resolution is weak.
Being a story about a broken family, Joe struggles to find ways to keep things together. He develops a “Yes” plan, which allows any question to be answered with yes and finds that parenting is not easy. What seems to be an easy solution somehow seems to work for the boys. They do not function like they used to, but things are different now and that’s exactly where it remains for the rest of the film.
Some of the scenes in the movie are absolutely beautiful. Hicks skillfully and purposely shoot the Australian landscape with a true love of the land, giving a sense of wonderment and hope to a rather sad situation.
The title The Boys are Back refers to these boys, young and old, regaining their trust and hope in one another. Not only do they need each other, but also they are learning to be a family however unconventional it may be. As for them really getting “back” to something, it is unsure what that really is, but for the moment things are okay—nothing resolved, maybe something learned, just okay.
There are two extras that are worth watching on the DVD. “The Boys Are Back: A Photographic Journey” is an interesting look at production stills and stories narrated by the director, Scott Hicks. It is a nice perspective into the film. “A Father and Two Sons” is footage from when the real-life boys met their fictional counterparts on set. It is quiet touching to see.