Be prepared: While it was a good film, it could definitely cause a debate between you and your spouse.
Bruce Sallan: "The Boys Are Back" is a small independent film, shot and set entirely in South Australia, directed by Scott Hicks (who did "Hearts in Atlantis," "Snow Falling on Cedars," and "Shine"), and starring Clive Owen, with the rest of the cast made up of unknowns, including two child actors who were pivotal in the "inspired by a true story" film.
My wife and I went to a preview and had a spirited discussion about it over dinner later. It didn't help that there was a Q&A after the movie with the director and Clive Owen -- during which my wife was practically drooling. OK, he is one handsome dude. Plus, he was articulate and gracious. In other words, completely hate-able.
The movie, inspired by a true story and book, is about a dad and his 6-year-old boy who have to learn to cope with the sudden death of their wife and mom, and later, how to cope with life without a woman in the house. For the dad, it means awareness of his complete lack of housekeeping skills and his minimal knowledge about his son, given that his work often took him away from home.
Later, we discover he has a teenage son in England that he abandoned when he got the now deceased mother of his youngest child pregnant, apparently while still married to his teen son's mother. When his teen son asks to come visit, everything ignites as this dad's incompetence manifests itself in destructive ways for everyone, though it's clear his grief is understandably a factor in his actions and mood.
Rather than learn the skills involved in taking care of a home, hiring help, or using his late wife's mother for advice and counsel, this dad decides to go it on his own. Granted, his mother-in-law is dealing with her own grief over the loss of her daughter and consequently is a bit harsh and judgmental, however right she may be. The result, however, means mostly a lack of structure for the boys, later resulting in some scary incidents.
To the film's credit, and as expressed by both the director and Clive Owen after the screening, they did not go for the simplistic emotional answers and usual family film by-the-numbers scenario. They both believe -- and on this I agree -- that they presented a more realistic portrayal of parenting and grief. And when asked, both Scott Hicks and Mr. Good-Looking declared they each have two kids of their own.
So, this movie is not a Disney, tie-up-all-the-loose-ends, feel-good-film, but rather a more stark view of parenthood, mostly from the boys' and dad's viewpoints. What I found so interesting was how my wife and I viewed it from our very specific experiences. She saw the dad and his mess as reflective of the value of a mom in the home, specifically looking at me as if our home was that much of a mess when she began repairing it. I saw it from my experience as a single dad, with two boys, and my opinion that this dad's character was acting irresponsibly. A few dirty dishes and a pile of laundry had less impact on me.
There is no doubt that this movie will encourage debate, or even arguments, between men and women, moms and dads, as each brings their own gender experience and opinions to any discussion. That is one of the strengths of this or any good film.
It's not a film that I think most kids will especially enjoy. It's really an adult film, with adult themes. Whether you're a dad or mom, I think its theme and importance is in how parents must take their jobs seriously, learn what they may not know, and not take the easy way out, however convenient it may feel at the time.
Want to see "The Boys Are Back"? Visit the Movie Loving Moms group in the momlogic community for your chance to win tickets.
|Bruce Sallan gave up his showbiz career a decade ago to raise his two boys, full-time, now 13 and 16. His internationally syndicated column, A DAD'S POINT-OF-VIEW, is his take on the challenges of parenthood and male/female issues, both as a single dad and now, newly remarried, in a blended family. Join Bruce's A DAD'S POINT-OF-VIEW fan page at Facebook. To contact Bruce, visit his new website brucesallan.com.|