The Boys Are Back

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Boys Are Back Movie Poster Image
Moving drama about loss, grief may be too heavy for kids.
  • PG-13
  • 2009
  • 104 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The film truthfully portrays mourning, and it’s almost refreshing to see the bumps not completely glossed over. It’s heartening to witness Joe’s efforts at becoming the father he needs to be when he himself is stricken with grief, as well as Harry's and Artie's burgeoning bond. That said, Harry does embrace some traditional opinions about how men and women handle emotions.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Joe probably won't win any “best-behaved dad” award -- at least not in the beginning. He drives with his son on his lap (sometimes in the rain), and lets the kids sit on the hood of the car while it’s moving. But it’s all has to be looked at in context: He’s trying to figure his way into a new "normal" now that his wife is gone. And he does find it eventually.


A teen, filled with frustration and anger, throws plates and other dishes to the floor. Later, destructive teens swarm a house and have a party against its residents’ will.


A married couple kisses and flirts with each other. A man and a woman get their signals crossed about what's developing between them.


Regular (though not overly frequent) use of words like "hell," "ass," “bugger,” “bloody,” “sodding,” "oh my God," and, on occasion, “s--t.”


In some scenes, logos for athletes' sponsors are shown.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Overcome with grief, a man starts drinking too much. In one scene, he grabs an entire bottle of wine and drinks to oblivion.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Boys Are Back is a moving drama about profound loss experienced by both adults and children -- subject matter that could easily overwhelm younger kids and tweens. A mother’s death is depicted onscreen, as is her family's unraveling soon after she's gone. But though the journey to healing is messy -- a widower makes some questionable parenting choices in the wake of his loss -- healing does happen, and it’s affecting to watch. Expect some swearing ("s--t" is the strongest word used), drinking, and kissing/flirting between adults.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKen R. February 21, 2021

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 P... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byFishynmn May 29, 2014

Moving and affectionate drama has some very sad, tear-jerker moments.

The Boys are Back, which is based on a true story, is full of heart as well as an inspiring performance by Clive Owen. You will find that many of the moments in... Continue reading

What's the story?

Sportswriter Joe Warr (Clive Owen) has a new assignment: parenting his young son, Artie (Nicholas McAnulty), after his wife (Laura Fraser) dies from pancreatic cancer. Loving but often absent due to his job, Joe is at loose ends -- trying to keep his deep sadness at bay, “just say yes” is his mantra. But mantras can’t stop the pain, and the arrival of Harry (George MacKay), Joe's estranged son from his first marriage, provides an opportunity to face the loss -- and other demons -- completely.

Is it any good?

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how each family member reacts to their painful loss. Why does Joe turn to alcohol? Why does Artie see-saw between neutrality and rage? How does Harry’s arrival complicate matters?

  • How does the movie portray the father-son relationship? Is that dynamic harder to navigate than other family relationships? Why or why not?

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: March 14, 2020

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