In the summer of 1984, a young Māori kid has the adventure of a lifetime and learns about his elusive father.
Boy (James Rolleston) is an 11-year-old who lives a rustic life in Waihau Bay, a small village in Bay of Plenty, a region in the North Island of New Zealand. His mother is dead and he’s never met his biological father Alamein (Taika Waititi), so Boy lives with his grandmother, his cousins, and his timid younger brother Rocky (Te Aho Eketone-Whitu), who believes he has magic powers.
Boy naturally yearns to know more about his dad. He imagines him as a war hero, a sports star, and many other fantastical stories. Boy is also a massive Michael Jackson fan and dreams that his dad will take him to a concert.
In between pining for a relationship with his dad, Boy deals with school bullies and struggles with his feelings for his pretty classmate Chardonnay (RickyLee Waipuka-Russell). When his grandma has to go out of town for a funeral, Boy is left in charge of the house for the weekend.
And then his dad comes back.
Alamein has apparently escaped prison with his two bumbling friends, who are part of a would-be biker gang and are hoping to locate some buried money. Alamein meets his two sons and tells them that he’s searching for buried treasure and he needs their help. Boy is thrilled that he can finally have a real relationship with his dad, but Rocky is more reluctant. Boy continues to want to believe that his dad is who he wants him to be, but is eventually forced to reconcile his view with reality.
I had heard many positive things about this film before deciding to buy it on Amazon. Boy is the brainchild of writer/director/comedian Taika Waititi, whose other work I’ve admired. I saw Boy awhile ago and absolutely adored it.
Independent comedy-dramas are nothing new, but Boy really does break new ground in many different ways. It’s a very moving coming-of-age story with tons of humor and heart. Boy is easily relatable as a kid who is lonely and lacks fulfillment, living a simple life in a small town and navigating the road to adulthood.
This film honestly portrays the joys and struggles of childhood in a way that few films do. I hate to say it, but if Boy was an American film, it would’ve tried too hard to be quirky. But as it stands, Boy‘s compelling story is both well-told and entertaining, with plenty of dry Kiwi humor to boot. Lead actor James Rolleston is among of the many debutants in this film, and he really is a very talented kid who captures all of his character’s emotions to a T.
Boy‘s cinematography is also really great. Obviously, it’s almost impossible to make New Zealand’s scenery look ugly, but the film really is shot very well. There are even some nice little stop-motion animation bits in Boy, as childhood drawings come to life to funny (and sometimes dramatic) effect.
Waititi is also very good in his performance as Alamein and is an exceptional director, too. Boy made a massive impact when it was released in 2010 and helped establish Waititi as a giant in Kiwi cinema (the film was actually the highest-grossing New Zealand film ever at one point).
Go see Boy. It’s witty, charming, and emotionally gripping.
- Written and directed by Taika Waititi
- Produced by Emanuel Michael, Cliff Curtis, and Ainsley Gardiner
- Starring James Rolleston, Te Aho Eketone-Whitu, Taika Waititi, Cherilee Martin, RickyLee Waipuka-Russell, Pana Hema Taylor, Cohen Holloway, Moerangi Tihore, Haze Reweti
- Director of Photography – Adam Clark
- Music by The Phoenix Foundation
- Edited by Chris Plummer
Note: this film did not get a wide release in the United States and was therefore not rated. In New Zealand it was given a rating of M (Mature), the equivalent of an American PG-13.