SIFF Film Review – Boy

Four years ago, writer/director Taika Waititi made his directorial debut with Eagle vs. Shark, a quirky romantic comedy starring Jemaine Clement from Flight of the Concords. It was a film that many liked for its unique characters and bizarre love story. I was not a fan, finding it hard to root for Clement’s selfish asshole of a character. With Boy, Waititi tells a similar story of a self-satisfied man-child. The difference here is that the character of Alamein is not the focal point of the film. Instead, we see this character and the strange world he inhabits through the eyes of Boy. Waititi’s style works perfectly with this coming of age story. We see a world that we recognize and can relate to, but with some wonder and fantasy still left in it.

The acting from all involved is top notch. James Rolleston holds the film together with his performance as Boy. Waititi’s script gives him a lot to work with and many different facets of the character to play. A hilarious scene where he invites his crush to drive around with him in his dad’s sweet ride followed by a cut to him pretending to drive the parked car while adding his own sound effects shows the actor’s ability to act like a carefree kid. As the film goes on, Rolleston is able to pull off the dramatic moments, such as when Boy begins to act like his callous father to those around him. Waititi has been seen as an actor just as often as he’s been a director. He played a supporting player in Eagle vs. Shark and here takes the much more demanding part of Alamein. Once he shows up in the film, he is in nearly every scene, and his performance doesn’t suffer at all from him also having behind-the-scenes responsibilities. Later this summer he’ll be seen as Thomas Kalmaku in The Green Lantern, a role that should make him recognizable to a much bigger audience than he’s been afforded with his own films up to this point. My favorite performance in the film belongs to Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu as Rocky. His character isn’t afforded as much depth as Boy, but he comes across as the perfect weird little kid who understands more than the other characters while simultaneously not understanding anything. He gets one of the film’s biggest laughs with his perfect final line.

Boy is not a flawless film. There are missed opportunities in the story (after being built up for the first half of the film, the young love subplot disappears) and some strange character choices (the potentially offensive mentally handicapped hermit character comes to mind). There are also the problems that come with the type of dry humor on display in the film. Depending on the actor, a droll line delivery can bring the house down with laughter or be met with indifferent silence. There are a few moments in Boy where I was hoping we’d get some more laughs to go along with the drama. But at the end of the day, Boy is a solid film that should be sought out by fans of coming-of-age stories and quirky comedies. At this point in time, the film does not have US distribution. But it has become the highest grossing New Zealand production ever within its home country, so its worldwide release can’t be too far off.

Boy screens Thursday, May 26th at 6:30 PM at Renton’s IKEA Performing Arts Center and Saturday, June 4th at 6:30 PM and Monday, June 6th at 4:30 PM at Seattle’s Neptune Theater. Tickets are available on the SIFF website.

Final Grade: B

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John is the co-host of The Macguffin Podcast, lover of 80s teen and horror films, and an independent filmmaker.

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