— by MARIUSZ ZUBROWSKI —
Dan Wilcox and Thad Mumford once said: “I don’t care how poor a man is; if he has family, he’s rich.” That quote summarizes the idea around Clive Owen’s new film, “The Boys Are Back.”
Directed by Scott Hicks — who also directed “Shine” and “No Reservations” — “the Boys are Back” stars Owen as Joe Warr, a successful sports journalist who struggles to support his two children after the sudden death of his wife due to the cancer.
Though the film’s plot and premise are all too familiar, the one gem that shines out is Owen’s tender performance, and it saves it from going into shameless tearjerker territory.
Warr, being a sports journalist, is usually away from home. His youngest child knows him as “the dad that leaves for a long period of time, and comes home to give presents.” His other child lives with Joe’s ex-wife in England. During a party, his new wife collapses and is diagnosed with cancer. Joe must struggle to maintain a stable relationship with his young son while trying to reconnect with his rebellious teen son who can’t forgive the fact that Joe left out on him.
The plot itself, though based on a true story, is too familiar to stand out on its own, but the powerful performance by Owen, as the devoted Joe, is both tender and realistic, and this gives the film its foundation.
Along with Clive, Nicholas Macanulty plays the curious 6 year old son, while George McKay plays the rebellious teenager from Joe’s previous marriage. Both of the characters have their quirks and Joe’s plan of raising them by himself without the conventional rules is what sets this film apart.
The film itself is quite sad at times, but for the most part, it delivers a message of hope. Pair that with Owen’s masterful performance and you get a film that just grazes the line of shameless tearjerker that other films like “The Notebook” and “My Sister’s Keeper” went past, but keeps our attention and keeps us rooting for the main character.
It’s a definite watch, whether it is in theaters or just on a quiet afternoon. Just keep the tissues ready.
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As a bonus, here is a scene from “The Boys Are Back”:
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