I arrived really late to this film, just about 2 years infact, despite this it’s easy to see how the film garnered so much success in its native New Zealand, where it became the biggest homegrown film of all time, as writer, director and star Taika Waititi has created such a great film. It is hilarious, yet touching at times, set between a perfect balance of the two, and never, ever becoming boring.
‘Boy’ focuses on an 11 year old boy, who lives on a farm with his Gran, brother Rocky and several cousins in 1984, is obsessed with Michael Jackson and one day hopes to meet his ‘heroic’ father. Boy and Rocky are a brilliant partnership, and the highlights of the film, with actors James Rolleston and Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu putting in brilliant shifts, especially given their youth. They never overplay the roles, and it is clear to see it is genuinely from the heart. Rolleston, in particular, was never even meant to play the role of Boy, instead turning up as an extra before being given the part. Eketone-Whitu is often silent, but uses his facial expressions to full effect, delivering a raw, yet utterly powerful performance, exceeding his supposed age of 6 years old! Waititi, as the pair’s dad is great as the cocksure father, who is riddled by his past, and despite his appearance is a wimp.
Details like the names of Boy’s cousins ‘Libya’ and ‘Tunisia’, along with supporting characters ‘Dynasty’ and ‘Chardonnay’, were very funny, and just added to the subtle charm of the film. The setting of New Zealand is beautiful, despite its poverty-ridden, ‘basic’ farmland surroundings, it makes you want to visit! Each character is vibrant and interesting in their own way, with no big stars present, you can sense the hunger to act from each cast member, you know they really want to be there, and it really shows. Even the supporting characters offer much more depth than many recent Hollywood productions, although I’ve always found smaller, independent ‘foreign’ films to present characters in a much more realistic way.
As the film develops, it becomes less humourous, as the issues surrounding Boy become more and more real. Drugs are thrown in, relationships shatter between himself and everyone around him. But this is when the film evolves to a comedy-drama, building on subtle hints previously, and the realization from Boy that his father may not be all the he claims. However, it never becomes a total downer, throwing in Rocky’s ‘special powers’, viewed through flipbook, crayon-drawn animations, such a simple, yet effective technique. It is the ultimate coming-of-age tale, which has been seen before, but never in this unique fashion. Ever since I discovered ‘Flight of the Conchords’, I’ve been convinced that New Zealanders are one of the funniest nations on the planet, and perhaps this may have just been confirmed with this tale.
‘Boy’ is brilliant. Every film-lover owes it to themselves to give it a go, the trouble is finding it. I had to trawl through the Internet to find it, as it isn’t available on any UK selling websites. Still, if you can find it, buy it and watch it: you WILL love it.