moviescope at the lff day eight

– . – movieScope at the LFF: Day Eight


movieScope at the LFF: Day Eight

Looking at Clive Owen’s recent back catalogue, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Brit star was attempting to make a name for himself as a bit of an action hero. Sin City (2005), Children of Men (2006), Shoot Em Up (2007) and The International (2009) have all showcased the actors not inconsiderable brawn,  but lurking under that hard exterior beats the heart of a great dramatic actor as demonstrated in the likes of Closer (2004), Derailed (2005) and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007). And today’s LFF screening of Scott Hicks’s adaptation of Simon Carr’s true story The Boys Are Back proves that Owen can more than hold his own as a leading man with emotional depth.


The Boys Are Back

And it doesn’t come much more emotional that this tale of celebrated sports writer Joe (Owen), who follows his second wife to a new life in Australia only for her to die of cancer leaving him in sole charge of their boisterous six-year-old Artie (Nicholas McAnulty). Having devoted more of his life to his work than fatherhood, Joe finds he is a fish out of water when it comes to domestic chores, setting ground rules and providing stability. Matters are further complicated when Joe’s teen son Harry (George MacKay) from his previous marriage turns up for a holiday, clearly unhappy with life back in the UK.

It’s a simple story, true, but it’s also deeply human; anyone who’s lost a loved one will recognise the spirals of agony and ecstasy that true grief can wreak upon a family, can understand Joe’s desire to just let his son be happy whatever outlandish means that might entail. Simple, too, are the elements that translate this story into a rewarding and affecting film; the beautiful Australian landscapes, strong direction from Shine filmmaker Scott Hicks, a heartfelt and honest screenplay from Allan Cubitt and some truly effortless performances from the cast. Newcmer McAnulty shows a natural talent that belies his young years as the grieving son, while Clive Owen has never been better as a man trying not to fall apart. Their relationship is, like the film itself, believable, touching and heartbreaking in equal measure. (4 stars)

(For an in-depth review of The Boys Are Back, look out for the Dec/Jan issue of movieScope on shelf at the end of November.)