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2010 | 88 min | M | 1.85:1



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Theatrical release date

 02 March, 2012

Country of origin

 New Zealand

Box office




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Screenshots from Boy Blu-ray

Boy Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, March 1, 2012

With 2007’s “Eagle vs. Shark,” writer/director Taika Waititi established himself as a filmmaker with a profound interest in quirk, aided by a richly graphic and sly sense of humor. It was an impressive debut, and his gifts carry into the follow-up feature, “Boy,” released in its native New Zealand in 2010, finally making its way to America over the course of the next month. A charming story of impressionable adolescence, “Boy” dials down the overt insanity that made “Eagle vs. Shark” such a hoot, instead attempting to find a stable place of screen poetry, silly behaviors, and sensitive characters. It’s a lovely picture, solidifying Waititi’s position as one of the more satisfying filmmakers working today.

The year is 1984, and Waihau Bay resident Boy (James Rolleston) is been put in charge of younger brother Rocky (Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu) while his grandmother heads off to a funeral. A tough kid who lost his mother long ago, Boy keeps his spirits up with thoughts of Michael Jackson and his father Alamein (Taika Waititi), who’s locked away in prison. When his estranged dad shows up out of the blue, Boy is delighted with the opportunity to spend time with Alamein, hoping to embrace a father/son relationship he’s been craving. Watching Alamein dig around the yard for lost money, attempt to establish a biker gang, and interact tentatively with Rocky, Boy has a chance to enjoy this stranger for the first time in his life, only to learn firsthand about the man’s aversion to responsibility.

“Boy” is a small-scale character piece, basically avoiding a plot to play episodically with the personalities as they get to know one another, settling into uncomfortable domestic roles that are alien to everyone involved. Waititi doesn’t shoot for the broad portrait of household unease, but the small experiences of life, observing Rocky’s artistic coping mechanism (sold through delightfully crude animations), Boy’s fatherly expectations, and Alamein’s fidgety way around town, sucked into a parental position he has little interest in. Instead of beating generational woe into the ground, the production keeps matters fairly light, making time for flights of imagination, where Boy projects his Michael Jackson adoration on anything he loves, while soaking up his father’s lowbrow behavior, overwhelmed with such a display of masculinity.

Characterizations are made benevolently, whacked up into flashes of daydreams, drawings, and reality, keeping the brothers busy while their deadbeat dad steadily reveals his ineffectiveness. Despite its interests in unspoken moments and illustrations, “Boy” is never cutesy, forcing the audience to digest a New Zealand-tinted whimsy. Instead, Waititi maintains a static sense of humor, with emphasis on tight editing and atmospheric influences, visiting gorgeous beaches and fields to capture the rural mindset, slipping in jokes or visual mischief wherever he can. The audience is encouraged to giggle throughout the picture, while the filmmaker gradually exposes the reality of Alamein’s desperation, with all of his unfinished business coming to clamp down on his emotions.

Between Waititi and Rolleston, “Boy” is able to establish sympathy for the characters through marvelous performances that remain playful, yet mindful of genuine ache. The entire ensemble is excellent, carrying a deadpan force that encourages bigger laughs and a stronger sense of community. However, the final act does move the picture toward a more dramatic edge, where Boy finally comes to a realization about his father, recognizing his fallibility and his own unfortunate position of accelerated maturation. Waititi hits ruthless notes of confrontation efficiently, eager to get “Boy” back on track as a heartfelt creation, not a melodramatic one.

“Boy” is charming, tender, and features a real screen vision emerging from Waititi, who sustains a fluid sense of playfulness and revelation, while tending to fanciful touches that deepen the viewing experience. He’s a gifted storyteller with a generous sense of humor and a confident way with actors, with “Boy” a great example of his agreeably idiosyncratic vision.

Starring: James Rolleston, Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu, Taika Waititi
Director: Taika Waititi

» See full cast & crew

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