out of Five
Running time: 110
Emotionally engaging, impressively directed and sharply written drama with a terrific central performance from Clive Owen and a strong supporting cast.
What's it all about?
Based on the memoir by Simon Carr and directed by Scott Hicks (Shine), The Boys Are Back stars Clive Owen as Australia-based sports journalist Joe Warr, whose beloved second wife Katy (Laura Fraser) dies suddenly from cancer, leaving him to raise their six-year-old son Artie (Nicholas McAnulty) on his own. Struggling with his own grief, Joe decides to adopt the path of least-resistance parenting, essentially allowing Artie to do whatever he wants in a house that permanently resembles a pigsty, much to the disgust of both his mother-in-law (Julia Blake) and Artie's attractive art teacher, fellow single parent Laura (Emma Booth).
However, when his teenage son (George MacKay as Harry) from his first marriage arrives to stay for the summer, Joe is forced to face up to the flaws in his hands-off approach.
The film opens with a shocking image that perfectly encapsulates the film: Joe is seen driving a jeep along the beach and laughing whilst various people shout at him – it then turns out he's letting Artie ride on the bonnet. Accordingly, the script takes a warts-and-all approach and isn't afraid to make Joe less than sympathetic at times, though you do get to see the pure joy on his son's face (in the bath-jumping scene) that prompts his hands-off parenting style in the first place.
Clive Owen gives perhaps his best performance to date as Joe; there's a slight emotional coldness to his screen persona that works perfectly here. There's also terrific support from both MacKay (who looks so much like Rupert Grint that it's actually freaky) and McAnulty and there's a powerful, believable chemistry between all three actors that is extremely moving.
In addition, there's great work from Laura Fraser (whose character speaks to Joe throughout the film), Julia Blake and rising star Emma Booth.
The script is excellent, with superb dialogue and several great scenes, particularly the moment where Laura finally yells at Joe and says what the audience has been thinking for 90 minutes. It's also beautifully shot throughout, courtesy of Greig Fraser's sun-drenched cinematography.
The Boys Are Back is an impressively directed, well written and powerfully emotional drama with terrific performances. Highly recommended.