About a Boy



Edgy, sweet book-based dramedy has profanity, mature themes.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Review Date: June 3, 2003
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2002
  • Running Time: 102 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The shallowness of materialism is shown, as is the emptiness of short-term relationships centered exclusively on sexual gratification; traits like thoughtfulness and consideration are shown to be much more desirable and important. Marcus has the conviction to be a vegetarian, and is willing to sing a song in front of his entire school that he knows will isolate him even further and expose him to ridicule because he believes it will make his mother (who is suffering from depression) happy. 

Positive role models

Main character starts out rather selfish, but ends up caring a great deal about Marcus. He's also caught in a lie and comes clean, even though it hurts his chances with a love interest. Bullies at school pick on Marcus because he's different and Marcus handles it with maturity.


Suicide attempt by one character who swallows pills, is shown passed out on a couch. Marcus is harassed/bullied by boys at school-- they kick a soccer ball that hits him in the head, chase him down the street, throw candy at his head. Lead character hit in head with an apple. 


Sexual references -- main character starts as a cad. Mild sex talk between teenagers. 


"F--k." "F--king hell." "S--t." Kids say "s--t," "piss off," "crap" British slang like "bollocks." Molestation insinuations. 


Will cares a lot about fancy products/brands. He purchases a pair of Sketchers shoes for Marcus in the hopes of making him fit in with his classmates. Talk between a mom and son about going to McDonald's to eat a Big Mac. 

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Main character's father is shown as an alcoholic, but only in a brief flashback. Beer and wine drinking at holidays or at dinner. Cigarette smoking. 

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that About a Boy is a 2002 movie based on a novel by Nick Hornby in which Hugh Grant plays a self-centered playboy who starts to become a better person after meeting a misfit 14-year-old with a depressed and suicidal mother. There's some strong language (including two uses of "f--k"), including profanity used by teenagers. Some sexual references (Will is an unabashed love-'em-and-leave-'em guy). A parent is clinically depressed and attempts suicide, and her child feels responsible. Another child becomes hysterical about the prospect of his mother dating. Marcus' mother fears that Will has an improper interest in Marcus. There are some brief molestation insinuations. Characters drink and smoke.

What's the story?

ABOUT A BOY, based on the book of the same name by Nick Hornby, is the story of a shallow man appropriately named Will Freeman (Hugh Grant) who wants to live life entirely self-contained with no reason to form attachments of any kind. Will's plan to avoid romantic emotional entanglements: single mothers. He decides it's the perfect relationship; they have low expectations and a sympathetic listener can get pretty far with them. So he pretends to be a single parent himself, makes up a 2-year-old son, and attends a support group in order to meet them. At a group picnic, Will meets a 14-year-old named Marcus (Nicholas Hoult). Marcus is isolated but does not want to be. His single mother is severely depressed and even the outcasts at school think he is too much of a dork to hang out with. Marcus just shows up at Will's home every afternoon to watch television and ultimately insists on becoming the closest thing to a friend that Will has ever known.

Is it any good?


The plot sounds like manipulative claptrap from a Hallmark Hall of Fame made-for-TV movie. That's because there is so much appeal in this kind of theme that even a lousy script and poor production values can't completely destroy it. But when it's done well -- or even very, very well, as it is here -- it turns into a purely satisfying and enjoyable film.

We know from Bridget Jones's Diary and even Small Time Crooks that Hugh Grant relishes playing a cad. Freed from the obligation to be the perfect boyfriend of Notting Hill-type movies, he gives us a superb performance of great honesty and subtlety and flawless comedy timing. Lots here for teens and parents to enjoy and discuss.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the role of friendship and other relationships in our lives. Why is it important to Will not to have any relationships? Why are the kids in school so mean to Marcus? How does Will's relationship with Marcus make him more interested in one with Rachel?

  • How are Will and Marcus alike, and how are they different? Is it right for Marcus to believe that it's his responsibility to make his mother feel better? What kind of grown-up will Marcus be? How does helping Marcus change Will's feelings about him?

  • Talk about the definition of "girlfriend" that Will and Marcus discuss -- and Marcus' idea about the importance of having back-up.

  • Why does Will watch Frankenstein? Does Will create a monster?

  • Talk about depression and its causes and treatments. What can you do if you or someone you know is depressed?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:May 17, 2002
DVD release date:January 14, 2003
Cast:Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult, Toni Collette
Directors:Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz
Studio:Universal Pictures
Topics:Book characters, Misfits and underdogs, Music and sing-along
Run time:102 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:brief strong language and some thematic elements

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written bythewittyman27 April 9, 2008


ive seen this movie so many times and it is hilarious every time!!!
Adult Written byRachel D April 9, 2008

Boring and not inspirational

I really don't even remember this very well, it was that good (sarcasm!). I remember thinking the adults were all portrayed as selfish and irresponsible and it was trying to be cute and touching but doesn't make the mark.
Teen, 14 years old Written byHappilyEverAfter April 9, 2008

It was touching...

I liked this movie because it was neat how a man who had such a different perspective in the beginning of the movie than he did when it ended. I was surprised at how much courage the little boy had when he got up on stage and basically surrendered his diginity by singing his mom's favorite song at the school concert because he wanted to make his mom happy. A great family movie even though the language is strong for a PG13 movie.


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