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TIFF ’09 Spotlight: THE BOYS ARE BACK (synopsis, stills, and trailer)

Kate Erbland

by: Kate Erbland
September 1st, 2009


“Director Scott Hicks returns to the Festival with a poignant story of a struggling single father living in the heart of Australia. Clive Owen stars as Joe Warr, a habitually roguish sports writer who must cope with the devastating loss of his vivacious wife. Reeling from grief, he has to learn to raise his young son, Artie (Nicholas McAnulty), who cannot accept his mother's passing. On top of this, Joe's older son from his first marriage arrives from England to stay, bringing his own teenaged disaffection with him. As his former life slips through his fingers, Joe constructs his own parenting rules. Adopting the mantra 'just say yes,' he leads the trio along the path of least resistance, eating junk food, running wild and attempting to rebuild family bonds.

Owen is excellent in the lead, allowing his character more vulnerability and less certain ease than he has before. As the grieving husband and father, he is both emotive and gentle in a finely nuanced performance. And Hicks, returning to Australia for the first time since SHINE, revels in the colour and texture of the region. Cinematographer Greig Fraser is a long-time collaborator with Jane Campion – he shot BRIGHT STAR, also playing at this year's Festival. Using a palette of gold and ochre, he brings the rolling hills and sweeping plains to dazzling life before your eyes. Paired with a hauntingly ethereal score by Hal Lindes and featuring songs by the Icelandic band Sigur Rós, THE BOYS ARE BACK evokes a memorably compassionate tone.”

The film is based on Simon Carr’s 2001 book, “The Boys are Back in Town,” which revolved around Carr’s life as a "least resistance parent” after the passing of his wife. His filmic alter ego, Joe Warr is a sports writer, and Carr is a writer and columnist for The Independent. Tony Blair is famously quoted as calling him "the most vicious sketch writer working in Britain today." The good news is, that means he’s funny, and the book was funny, so it looks like THE BOYS ARE BACK should live up to some of the smiles in the trailer. I’m not saying you won’t cry, but you’ll probably get to do it through some laughs, which is my favorite way to go.

Hicks’ last big feature outing was with NO RESERVATIONS in 2007. I didn’t see it. I don’t think anyone else did either. However, you may know his work on SHINE, the Geoffrey Rush-starring emotion fest about a psychological unstable pianist. Hicks can bring the heavy.

Fortunately, Owen most certainly has the skills to carry an emotionally heavy family drama – look at his work with such films as CHILDREN OF MEN, ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE, and CLOSER. However, Owen also has a pretty good sense of comic timing. As much as may have railed on DUPLICITY, Owen was the best part of it, proving just how fun he can be to watch when he brings the laughs.

THE BOYS ARE BACK is scheduled for a limited release on September 25. And, considering some of the other films slated for that date (SURROGATES, WHITEOUT, PANDORUM, COCO BEFORE CHANEL, and ASTRO BOY two days earlier), I hope that the BOYS ARE BACK will be able to reach an audience looking for a family dramedy with strong acting. In a box office simmering down from a whiz-bang blockbuster summer, the film could do quite well for itself. I’m interested to see the response it receives at TIFF because, as it stands, I think THE BOYS ARE BACK could be a surprising hit. Finally, something with heart.

Check out the trailer and a mini gallery of stills below.


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