Close your eyes and go back to your childhood and think about a grown-up you truly worship. Did you have high expectations of who they are and what they are capable of? I remember when I was a kid I always thought of my mom as larger than life. She could solve any problem in a snap and deliver the goods with a wink of an eye. To me, she was everything I could imagine and more, I am grateful for that. For a young boy New Zealand in 1984, he creates this vivid vision of his father – a man who has been in prison most of his life. When he is released and meets his son, will the father live up to the boy’s fantasy or give him a harsh dose of reality? New Zealand’s highest grossing film has finally reached the states, and we can explore the world of “Boy.”
It was the year of 1984. Michael Jackson-mania has swept the world all due to an epic album called “Thriller.” Boy (James Rolleston) gives a presentation in front of his class talking about his father, who has been absent most of life and his idol, MJ. He hopes that his father will take him to see a live performance of the gloved one. Boy lives on a small farm in Waihau Bay in scenic New Zealand with younger brother Rocky (Te Aho Eketone-Whitu) who feels that he has super powers and a hard-working aunt who drives the school bus, delivers the mail and sells candy.
When his grandmother has to leave for a funeral, his father Alamein (Taika Waititi) suddenly shows up after being released from prison for seven years. What Boy doesn’t know is the man he dreamt of will turn his world upside down and inside out. Nonetheless, Boy is happy to have his dad back and wants Rocky to finally meet the dad he never knew. Alamein’s return was not for his sons but to find the money hid in field years ago. He convinces Boy that when the money is discovered, they will live in a mansion with dolphins to ride, tuxedos and swimming pools. Will Boy’s help bring him and Alamein closer or will it tear everything he hopes for in a father apart?
Writer-director Taika Waititi made a hilarious yet touching film about growing up and gives it face value. Waititi takes the numerous disgraces of Alamein as he reveals his true nature to Boy and combines it with the humor of Boy’s vivid fantasies of his dad coming to life. Boy is captivating with his admiration of MJ and how he wants to impress his crush Chardonnay with his “moonwalk,” which needs some work. He is also much more mature than his father will ever be, showing concern for his little brother Rocky who visits the gravesite of his late mother and befriending the local weirdo. The first act may not hit your funny bone with a typical comedy but its gradual humor along with the final scenes shows the ultimate trial and tribulations of growing up.
The movie’s young stars deliver such wonderful performances. James Rolleston can play the responsible young man taking care taking care of his siblings and the dreamer who wanted a father to be a war hero, a deep sea diver or Michael Jackson. Rolleston’s performance is absolutely charming to watch. Te Aho Eketone-Whitu’s performance is so genuine that you actually feel the sadness of his young life. For a couple of kids who have never acted before, they both bring a natural authentic quality to their roles.
Boy is quite charming, original, and entertaining! Pleasure and pain rarely come together so stunningly as in this unique New Zealand film. It is a gripping reminder of the disappointments that come with being young and full of imagination, but it will make you feel good in the end.
FINAL GRADE: B+
Check out my exclusive interview with Director Taika Waititi in our Video Section