2009-10-30 / Entertainment/Lifestyles


'The Boys Are Back' - Ten-Tissue Tearjerker
By Robert Snyder

Grief from the unexpected death of a loved one comes in waves. There's almost a rhythm to it, like waves of indigestion. You might be in the middle of a conversation, deep asleep or under water, when a sudden memory or feeling of the lost one will hit you, causing tears to well up from inside and come gushing out.

Never has a movie conveyed the rhythm of grief as effectively and accurately as "The Boys Are Back." In fact, at one point, the pain is so powerful, it may be too tough to take for more sensitive audience members.

Adapted by Allan Cubitt from columnist Simon Carr's memoir, "The Boys Are Back" begins with sportswriter Joe Warr (Clive Owen) leading an idyllic life with his beautiful wife, Katy (Laura Fraser), and adorable 6-yearold son, Artie (Nicholas Mc Anul ty), in the serene, coastal outback of Australia.

Tragedy strikes when Katy collapses from cancer at a party. Before long, she is gone and Joe is thrown into a "Kramer vs. Kramer" single-parent situation with Artie.

Reeling from repeated psychological pain punches, Joe copes by evoking Katy's ghost for advice and basically letting Artie run wild. That is, he allows the boy to do "cannonball" jumps in the bathtub and sit on the hood of his Land Rover as it speeds through the edge of the surf at the beach.

But the pain never goes away. Soon, an added layer is introduced in the form of Harry (George McKay), Joe's teenage son from another marriage. Harry leaves a posh "Harry Potter"- type prep school in London to live and reconnect with his dad.

The youth's trunk of troubles are somewhat assuaged by his newfound relationship with sweet little Artie. However, he still feels abandoned by his father, who left him and his mother, Barbara (Julia Blake), shortly after his birth.

The calamity culminates when Joe is forced to travel to Melbourne to cover a major tennis match. Because Dad is unable to get an adult to stay with them, the boys are on their own.

The result is disastrous.

Under Scott ("Shine") Hicks' insightful and compassionate direction, "The Boys Are Back" benefits enormously from Owen's heartfelt performance. He modifies his James Bondesque sex appeal to play a father overwhelmed with grief and suddenly ex pand ed parental responsibility.

As he acknowledged in a recent interview, Owen does actually know such intense personal pain as he displays in the film.

The grief stays with you, he says. And so will the memory of this movie.

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