Directed by: Taika Waititi
Written by: Taika Waititi
Starring: James Rolleston, Te Aho Eketone-Whitum, Taika Waititi
Having the physical ability to procreate does not necessarily signify everyone who can should be a parent to another being. It’s okay to admit it because without trying the offspring is predisposed to look up to you and think you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread. A hard lesson learned in the beautifully empathetic and comedic Boy.
Living with his grandmother and younger brother, we have Alamein (James Rolleston), who goes by “Boy.” His mother died in childbirth to his younger brother and his father has not been seen for a while, which Alamein attributes to him traveling and having adventures, while others know the truth. After Boy’s grandmother heads out for a funeral, Boy’s father suddenly reappears.
The unbridled joy and imagination young children possess will never impress me because I had it as a kid and growing up seems to evaporate it from our senses. The different worlds and explanations we can concoct can make something grand, such as protecting ourselves from the harmful reality sitting right in front of us. Boy faces this particular issue with his father, who has been away for years now and instead of accepting the reality other people expound on him, he reverts to his imagination of his father traveling and engaging in some epic adventures and once he has concluded these transgressions, surely he will be on his way home. A naive set of beliefs to hold, but it’s the only thing keeping his world afloat and giving him hope his family will be as whole as possible.
This naive belief gets challenged when his father arrives once the grandmother heads out for the funeral. The introduction to the father character could not be more perfect in the way he pulls up in his car and states that he’s Boy’s father. The rest of the film captures the experience of Boy learning more about the purpose behind his father’s return and how the imaginative interpretation of his father vastly outshines the real person standing in front of him.
It makes for such a touching story because we want Boy to see his father for the loser he has always been. A man who went to jail for a robbery and abandoned his children due to his own selfishness. It’s such an obvious thing for the audience to see but Boy must find this out on his own and we can only hope he will land on his feet when the blow lands. Even as we brace for impact, the story plays out in such a comedic way because of the man behind the camera and in front.
Taika Waititi directed the feature and portrayed Boy’s father and with this film, he shows the incredible comedic timing he can infuse into all of his films. Boy stands as his second feature film and displays immense growth on how to harness his comedic sensibilities and lace it into a coming-of-age story. He handles the dramatic and comedic elements incredibly well because he’s protective of Boy as a filmmaker but incredibly harsh as the actor. He finds the balance to keep the magical mirage long enough over the eyes of Boy until indisputable evidence presents itself to show him the unfortunate truth. Waititi’s brand of comedy really shines as he displays the New Zealand countryside in all of its beauty. With his first feature, Eagle vs. Shark, he shows the more urban side, but his focus on the Māori experience allows it to be more personal for him and it makes for a sublime feature film.
The young man starring as Boy also delivered such a beautifully naive and heart-wrenching performance. James Rolleston feels like such a real kid in the way he idolizes people to a negative degree. It does not get more ironic than when it shows just how much he loves Michael Jackson. He even utilizes some of his moves to try and impress the ladies. Even with being a young kid, he demonstrates a maturity his father still does not have because Boy has the capability to care for his younger brother when his grandmother leaves while his father could not even handle taking care of children as an adult. This development allows Boy to grow up much quicker than his other friends and the lessons he learns through the experience with his father will stay with him for a while.
Plenty of laughs and moments where you just want to hug the protagonist, Boy shows the dangers of idolizing someone just because they were responsible for your creation. As the film shows and the rest of humanity, it does not take smarts or real maturity to have a child. You must take everyone at face value and if they cannot prove their worth, then maybe you should opt for reality rather than the imaginative interpretation concocted in your mind. Boy is truly a lovely and touching film, which carries a great balance of its tones and creates some wonderful characters.