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The Boys are Back

A Tearjerker...for Men

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Who said tearjerkers were a women’s thing? Based on a true story, Clive Owen stars as Joe, a sportswriter who recently lost his young wife to cancer and is left to raise their 5-year old son. Owen is the shining star of a competent character piece that’s able to stay grounded despite its emotional material.

While Owen is usually known to hold a gun, he’s already won acclaim for his range, most notably in Children of Men. This film won’t be the pinnacle of his career, but it will illustrate to a wider audience that he’s more than an action star. He’s a perfect choice as a typical man who’s left womanless for the first time. Typically leaving the cleaning and upbringing to his wife, he’s the fun father always bringing back gifts from his most recent trip. Of course, now he’s faced with being the breadwinner and the homemaker to his son in addition to grieving the loss of his wife. Owen’s performance is multi-layered while never going overboard, a quality mirrored in the film as a whole.

Director Scott Hicks understands the material he’s working with and makes his best film since his Oscar nominated Shine. He meanders through profound moments coming close but never straying into the melodramatic. He realistically depicts the story of two generations attempting to understand the loss of their matriarch as distance remains between them. Owen is hesitant as a full-time father unable to reach his son on an emotional level, while his son is unable to express what he feels at such a young age. When Owen’s teenage son from his first marriage decides he also needs some fatherly love all hell breaks loose.

It’s an honest look at family life devoid of a woman’s touch and wrestles with the question if it can survive on testosterone alone. The dry, barren Australian backdrop perfectly compliments the emotional landscape the characters are travelling. Like the Australian Outback, the film sometimes lacks in scenery but for the most part, it’s a great view.