The Boys Are Back is a heartwarming drama that explores how one family deals with a tragedy. Directed by Scott Hicks (Shine, No Reservations), this movie is based on a book of memoirs called The Boys Are Back In Town by Simon Carr. Shot on location in gorgeous southern Australia, this is one of the best movies of 2009 that no one is talking about.
Clive Owen (Children of Men, Closer) stars as Joe Warr, a successful sports writer. When his wife, Katy, dies suddenly of cancer, he is left to raise his six-year-old son all by himself. The scenes leading up to Katy’s death are absolutely heart-wrenching. Joe is beside himself with sorrow, while six-year-old Artie’s flippant nature about his mother’s impending death is infuriatingly heartbreaking. After the first 15 minutes, I thought I was in for a depressing tear-jerker. Thankfully, this movie has more to offer.
Joe slowly deals with his pain, but in the meantime he must face the tall order of being a single parent. Artie is full of energy and zeal, but at the same time he misses his deceased mother in a profound way. Watching the two connect slowly is a rewarding experience. Joe develops a unique approach to his parenting style. He embraces the motto “just say yes” and the idea of “no rules, no chores." Artie begins to thrive in this environment, and the feel-good moments are an excellent rebound from the saddening opening scenes.
Joe has a second son from his first marriage. Estranged from Joe and living in England with his mother (Joe and Artie live in Australia), the teenage Harry Warr comes to stay with Joe and Artie. I will admit, I immediately thought that Harry was going to be a rebellious punk who would negatively influence Artie and the movie would devolve into a string of clichés. The Boys Are Back pleasantly surprised me once again.
Yes, Harry has to adjust to living in rural Australia and getting to know his father. However, the movie avoids the pitfalls it could have fallen into with the done-to-death prodigal son story. Harry truly loves Artie, and earnestly wants to know why his father left his mother when he was a young child. Joe has to balance his demanding job with running the houseful of boys and even the inkling of romance with the mother of one of Artie’s classmates.