| This indie gem marks the arrival of Oscar season. Academy Award-nominated director Scott Hicks (“Shine”) delivers an emotionally touching and profoundly moving account of a sportswriter (Clive Owen from “Duplicity” and “Closer”) who, in the wake of his second wife’s tragic death and the continuing pain of a prior divorce, finds himself in a sudden state of single parenthood.
Inspired by a true story, the screen adaptation is based on the 2001 serious-comic novel “The Boys Are Back in Town” by Simon Carr.
The movie takes place in Australia, where British expat Joe Warr (Owen) lives with his second wife, Katy, and their 6-year-old son, Artie (Nicholas McAnulty). The marriage is sadly cut short when Katy dies of cancer.
Joe is devastated while the innocent and inquisitive Artie doesn’t fully realize the effect of losing his mom. Joe must pick up the pieces and become a better father.
Joe adopts a permissive “just say yes” child-rearing philosophy, much to the chagrin of his mother-in-law, Barbara (Julia Blake from “Innocence”).
This heartwarming movie slowly grows on you and becomes an unforgettable experience. It is a wonderful film that the entire family can enjoy. You can’t help but develop a rooting interest for Joe to effectively balance the stress of work with household chores.
At the midway point, Joe’s estranged son from his first marriage, Harry (George Mackay from “Defiance”), comes to Australia from England for an extended visit. Harry is a rebellious teenager who feels resentment toward Joe for abandoning him and leaving him in his mother’s custody. This adds another layer to the powerful drama.
The movie focuses on the small moments in life and a father spending quality time with his boys. Owen gives a masterful Oscar-worthy performance. He runs the gamut of emotions. There are private moments of grief and sadness contrasted by fun-loving interaction out in public.
McAnulty and Mackay give very natural performances that are real and genuine. A glorious musical score and splendid photography of the sprawling South Australia coast add to the enjoyment.
Parents will be able to relate best to the domestic routine, structure and security that greatly influence a child’s growing up process. You might want to have the hankies ready for this honest and tastefully presented tearjerker.
Now playing exclusively at the Tivoli in Westport.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"