A coming-of-age story with the sensibilities of Takia Waititi. What’s not to like?
Boy (2010) is a New Zealand comedy/drama written and directed by Takia Waititi. It stars James Rolleston as the titular ‘Boy’, an 11 year old kid living in a share home in 1984 New Zealand whose life is turned upside down when his criminal father Alamein (Takia Waititi) returns home.
The film’s plot is a clever twist on the typical coming-of-age tale, and is consistently expressed with a real sense of whimsy. The narrative works so well because as heightened ridiculous as it is, you could comfortably see the characters behaving this way – Boy idolising the father who disappeared and then comes back with tonnes of cool stories, and Alamein acting like a stupidly rebellious kid with too many tattoos. Its sweet, intelligent and while it does go the route you would expect, it still feels fresh and impactful.
Like What we Do in the Shadows and the incredible Hunt for the Wilderpeople this movie is funny. Also goofy and creative, but mostly funny. Random moments (like when the film cuts to stop-motion drawings) add to the ridiculous tone of the movie and keeps it feeling innovative and highly amusing. Granted, of Takia Waititi’s three films this one doesn’t reach the comedic heights of the others, but its goofy tone and weird style more than makes up for it.
The performances suit the tonality of the film wonderful too. Takia Waitit is loveable as ever, showing he clearly has a perfect grasp of the script and tone of the movie – he grabs it from scene one and runs with it throughout. The real standout however is absolutely James Rolleston as Boy, who has incredible range for a child actor, and is the shoulders the rest of the film stands on – if his performance wasn’t strong, it would all collapse.
My only real criticism of the film is the balancing of drama and comedy. Unlike Wilderpeople, the film sometimes struggles to transition between the two, making it difficult for the audience to figure out whether they should be laughing or stone-faced from one scene to the next. Not only that, but the comedy can undercut the drama on the odd occasion, removing its impact. That being said, far more of it works than doesn’t, but its worth noting.
But overall, Boy is a whimsical, funny and touching coming-of-age story with exactly the type of creativity you’d expect from Taika Waititi. Anyone looking for a great movie or seeking out the rest of Waititi’s work after Wilderpeople should not miss this if it can be helped.
General Audiences: Highly Recommended
Film Buffs: Highly Recommended
Cultists: Highly Recommended