The Boys Are Back

It’s such a relief to see Clive Owen (“Duplicity”) move beyond shoot- ‘em-ups and romantic comedies. In this heartfelt film, inspired by a true story, he is a twice-married fellow with one son from each marriage. His second wife dies suddenly from an unsuspected cancer and he is left to raise their six-year-old son, played by Nicholas McAnulty. His elder son, played by George MacKay, lives in England with his mother, while our hero lives in Australia with the younger one.

This film is based on the 2001 memoir by Simon Carr, which tracks a young widower as he evolves from grieving husband to inept father. His parenting style is laissez faire at best and irresponsible at worst. He tries to bring joy back into the life of his six-year-old son by being a pal, and the result is chaos. When the older boy arrives from England for a visit, he is shocked at the disarray in the house, but manages to adapt as best he can. After some disastrous missteps, our struggling father is finally forced to face up to his shortcomings.

The director is Scott Hicks (“Snow Falling on Cedars”) and one of the producers is Greg Brenman (“Billy Elliot”), so we are in the capable hands of a team that understands family dynamics. No car chases, no sweaty bodies, no blowie uppie stuff, although when the two boys are alone and their home is invaded, we feel plenty of anxiety for their safety.

My biggest regret was that the volume in the theater was too low, so I missed over eighty percent of the dialog. Despite that handicap I found the story easy to follow, because Owen and the rest of the cast do a fine job.