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Go See "The Boys Are Back" ... and Think

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Be prepared: While it was a good film, it could definitely cause a debate between you and your spouse.

the boys are back clive owen

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.

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14 comments so far | Post a comment now
denise September 25, 2009, 7:31 AM

I’m sorry Bruce. I’d ogle Clive Owen, too. After all, aren’t you the guy who wrote “Just A Guy Looking?” What’s fair is fair.

Joking aside, this movie does sound thought-provoking!

PostalDad September 26, 2009, 11:32 AM

I think the movie sounds great! As weird as this sounds, I have given thought to that life changing event(God forbid) as well. One of the big what-if’s. I can’t wait to see this movie! Thanks Bruce.

Bruce Sallan September 26, 2009, 11:37 AM

I’d recommend “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” over “The Boys Are Back” if you need a lighter movie, or “9” if you want an amazing animated adventure. Nonetheless, “The Boys Are Back” legitimately stimulated the discussion I reference in my review between my wife and I. The fact that Clive Owen was present at the screening we attended was just MY BAD LUCK…lol. Now if Angelina Jolie had been there, maybe we’d have had a more spirited debate and equal time in the drooling department!

heather fox September 29, 2009, 2:50 AM

would love to win

Pat Franco September 29, 2009, 4:25 AM

I am looking forward to seeing this movie.

Nancy Ludvik September 29, 2009, 8:14 AM

Would love to win!

julie cooley September 29, 2009, 11:41 AM


lilikindsli September 29, 2009, 5:37 PM

nhGe4P I want to say - thank you for this!

JANET BINGEL September 29, 2009, 10:21 PM

I really want to see this. I can’t picture a man taking charge of a family.

lilikindsli September 30, 2009, 8:45 AM

joIDw0 I want to say - thank you for this!

Bruce Sallan September 30, 2009, 8:46 AM

Janet, Janet, aren’t you perpetuated sexist stereotypes!? My reaction to the movie, ironically, was that the male filmmakers were doing the same thing in portraying the dad figure as so clueless. While this may still be the case in some families, I know too many dads that are doing their EQUAL share of the parenting, housework, and often more than their equal share of the income producing. Please read more of my blogs or my regular column on my web-site to get some insights into today’s dads. You’re living in the fifties with that comment (said with nothing but love and affection, and a tinge of humor, to be clear). Thanks for the comment.

Globals October 2, 2009, 5:52 PM

all good things

Romase October 3, 2009, 4:22 PM

site best

tennmom October 27, 2009, 2:25 PM

My late-husband’s youngest brother was the custodial parent for his two sons starting when they were 2 years old & 4 months old. His wife was (and is) alive, but they were seperated. She was trying to guilt him, faked a suicide attempt, ended up arrested & committed against her will.
My nephews are now 16 and 14 and doing just fine.

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