Director: Taika Waititi
Writer: Taika Waititi
Starring: James Rolleston, Te Aho Eketone-Whitu, and Taika Waititi
Taika Waititi’s second film, Boy, was released in 2010, but work began on the script years before even his first film was released, 2007’s Eagle vs Shark. Boy is a darkish comedy about a young boy, Alamein who is played by James Rolleston, coming to terms with the fact that his father isn’t as cool and adventurous as he imagined him to be.
Boy, whose real name is Alamein (named after his father), spends most of the film simply being called boy by his friends and family, even though he starts to resent the nickname. He’s left in charge of his grandmother’s household when she travels to Wellington for a funeral. While she’s away boy’s father, played by Taika Waititi, reappears after spending time in prison. As soon as he arrives, boy is overjoyed hoping to make his dream version a reality.
The film starts with Boy introducing himself at school with a presentation. He talks about his life, family, his obsession with Michael Jackson, and making out that his father is basically superhuman. He tells tall tales about the amazing feats that his father has done, and straight away someone calls him a liar as his father is in prison. When Alamein actually turns up, you know instantly know that boy’s fantasy is going to be shattered, especially when he has to introduce himself to his own father.
Alamein is not a good father in any stretch of the imagination. He makes it clear that he doesn’t really want to be there, and the only reason he’s come back home is to find the money he buried before prison. He even asks Boy to not call him ‘dad’ at one point, because it sounds weird. He’s not mature enough to be a dad and doesn’t hide away from the fact that he plans on leaving again as soon as he finds the money. It’s really sad to watch.
Despite the subject matter, right from the start Waititi’s humour is there, with the quirky fantasy sequences about boy’s father as well as his younger brother, Rocky (Te Aho Eketone-Whitu), who believes he has superpowers. The film becomes more grounded as it goes on and the comedy starts to be replaced with a more emotional story about someone who doesn’t live up to expectations.
One of the darker elements of the film, that works really well, is that Rocky thinks he killed his mum, as she died in childbirth. There’s a sense of guilt that he has and it’s heartbreaking that anyone would actually think that. He even apologises to his father at one point for it. It’s never played off as a joke, it’s just the way that Rocky interprets the world around him and it’s quite sad.
Boy hits hard when it needs to, and somehow manages to keep the tone quite light throughout. It’s a poignant film about growing up and finding out that your parents are human, something that almost everyone can relate to. It’s also interesting watching Waititi’s style grow in this film, knowing where his career has gone since.
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