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Parents' Guide to

The Boys Are Back

By S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Moving drama about loss, grief may be too heavy for kids.

Movie PG-13 2009 104 minutes
The Boys Are Back Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 13+

Based on 1 parent review

age 13+

The Boys are Back – And the Hard Work Begins

English performer Clive Owen does quite well in the role of British sportswriter Joe Warr. The story, written by Simon Carr (ex speechwriter for New Zealand’s Prime Minister in the 90s) is loosely based on his own life experiences and adapted for the screen by Allen Cubitt. Perhaps the decision to open the picture with a scene featuring Owen, rather recklessly driving along a crowded beach, at speed, with his young son balanced on the Bonnet – could well be seen as a failure by all concerned at this point of the picture. Being set between the picturesque South Australian coastline and England - it outlines the difficulty ‘Joe’ has bringing up his two young sons after the death of his young, second wife. Then come the complications of juggling his job and raising young boys in an isolated country town, offering up many demanding challenges including schooling, connecting with neighbours (Emma Booth truly shines in this situation) and the expectations of controlled parenting, etc. Also highlighted, is the irresponsible destructiveness of teenage party gate-crashers and the aftermath on the family. The lavish on-location Cinematography of Aussie Greig Fraser (Lion ’16) adds depth and richness, making it easy to look at. Director Scott Hicks tends to keep the story and his characters reasonably on target (even when certain situations seem somewhat far-fetched) Ex Dire Straits guitarist; Hal Lindes supplies the easy-going, gentle score. All performances are very good.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1 ):
Kids say (1 ):

It's difficult to portray the ravages of grief on screen, but director Scott Hicks, who won an Academy Award for Shine, accomplishes it effectively in THE BOYS ARE BACK. Inspired by writer Simon Carr's memoir, the movie vividly renders death's messy aftermath -- the way mourning upends just when you think you've righted yourself. Owen and the actors who play his kids are authentic -- McAnulty and MacKay achingly so -- which saves the film from outright treacle (for a movie about grief, it has some great laughs). Their reactions seem to spring from genuine feeling, not "acting." And the movie's landscape -- glorious, golden, gorgeously filmed Adelaide, Australia -- is a stirring counterpoint to the family's lamentable state of affairs. It's a reminder that life simultaneously ends and continues.

A few objections: After his wife's death, Joe's home and his parenting understandably fall into neglect (scenes of Joe driving with Artie on his lap will surely rile up vigilant moms and dads). But both outcomes feel predictable, somehow, as do his developing interest in a single mother and his one-on-one conversations with his (dead) wife. The film is powerfully lean, but it could've been made ever so slightly leaner.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: September 25, 2009
  • On DVD or streaming: January 26, 2010
  • Cast: Clive Owen , Emma Booth , Laura Fraser
  • Director: Scott Hicks
  • Studio: Miramax
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 104 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • MPAA explanation: some sexual language and thematic elements
  • Last updated: August 2, 2022

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