The director of Snow Falling on Cedars and No Reservations is back with a film that may remind some of Kramer vs. Kramer and About A Boy set in sun-drenched South Australia.
Scott Hicks' The Boys are Back mostly earns honest emotional power as the script from a memoir by Simon Carr works effectively from the way family copes with death and divorce.
Starring Clive Owen in his best performance since Closer, the actor displays sensitivity as constantly-on-the-go sportswriter Joe Warr.
Cancer takes wife Katy (Laura Fraser) from Joe who adopts a "Just Say Yes" mantra in handling six-year-old son Artie, well-played by tyro thespian Nicholas McAnulty.
Artie and his dad really haven't gotten to know one another in his young life, tentative in their interaction, as mom knew how to keep Artie happy in his routines, like how he liked his toast. And, there's the way they are trying to rebound individually in their mutual loss as Artie displays a certain upsetting maturity when talking to his dad about Mummy.
The sensibly nuanced narrative from Allan Cubitt depicts another adaptation of family after Joe split up and left his first wife in England. Now, his teenage son Harry (George MacKay) arrives for the summer putting the new single parent in troubling, yet beneficial circumstances. There's a chance to be with a man who wasn't there for him and also a big brother to a kid who's been on a chaotic course of late.
Hicks stages this restructuring in a balanced, interesting way, hardly overproduced in the vein of many Hollywood dramas with this kind of subject matter. One sees the delicacy it takes for a man finding his way as a father with Owen (maybe using some of his past work like Children of Men and Harrison's Flowers) as inspiration for someone lost at first in the responsibilities of family. Something even more tragic could be in the offing when Joe has to cover the Australian Open.
Besides a strong McAnulty, MacKay endows Harry with hopeful verve, and Emma Booth offers fine backup in this mostly unsentimental actual account as a sweet, divorced mother of one Artie's classmates.
Less potent is the recurring "visiting" of Katy with Joe to lend advice and keep him from going into his own tizzy. But, in this case, that is a minor drawback for a winsome, lushly-mounted lensed picture that will give some folks good use of their tear ducts, shining in naturalistic family values.
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