Wild At Heart
The film ‘Boy’ is a New Zealand film which was Taika Waititi’s second feature film though he achieved some success with his 2003 Academy Award nominated short film “Two Cars, One Night”. The film debuted at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and got nominated for the Grand Jury Prize which is usually a good sign for a film. Waititi is also known in his native country as a comedian, writer, painter and actor (he was seen by audiences as the character Thomas Kalmaku in the live-action superhero film, “Green Lantern”).
The film ‘Boy’ is set in Waihau Bay, New Zealand in the year 1984 where we meet our main character, an 11 year old who lives on a farm in a poverty stricken area with his Gran, his younger brother Rocky, several cousins and a goat (named Leaf). Boy is also a fan of Michael Jackson. He is a typical kid who has a crush on an older girl he fails to impress and deals with a lot of the regular issues kids deal with. He is also hopeful to someday meet his father, Alamein (played by Waititi), who he idolizes into a heroic image. When his Gran leaves for a week to attend a funeral his father shows up with members of his gang in search of a bag of money he buried years before.
Alamein does not quite live up to the boy’s expectation as we find the man at times incompetent and while he seems overly focused on the money, we do have some moments when he truly bonds with his son. What sets this movie apart from similar films are the interludes of fantasy as we see little mini-movies interspersed throughout the film such as a tribute to Michael Jackson’s Eat It” with the father playing the Jackson role to correspond to a fight he has with a gang of bikers and his gang (of course the real fight doesn’t work out as well as the fantasy fight). These moments play with the Boy’s view of his dad which are heroic but once the dad arrives, we can see changes to the imaginative narrative that works itself through the Boy’s and perhaps his father’s eyes.
The film’s story is very basic but we get caught up in the Boy’s quest for his father/image of his father and find it hard not to become invested in the characters and hope that they will become a family again. The boy is idealistic while the father is bumbling (though not so over the top to fall into Stooges territory). This is a film which could have easily been forgotten but manages to come alive and not only entertain but address some of the real issues of family (domestic responsibility) and society (drugs, gangs) without being preachy.
I think “Boy”, despite it’s simple, yet universal title, will be a pleasant surprise for anyone thinking of checking it out at the theatre. It starts today at the Main Art Theatre in Royal oak so check out their website (http://www.landmarktheatres.com/Market/Detroit/Detroit_Frameset.htm) for movie times.
I give “Boy” an A-.