The Boys Are Back

Film, Drama
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 4 out of 5 stars
(3user reviews)
0 Love It
Save it
The Boys Are Back
Hankies at the ready, folks. Bearing similarities to 2007’s ‘And When Did You Last See Your Father?’, ‘The Boys Are Back’ is a moving examination of father-son relations adapted from a memoir. Joe (Clive Owen) is a British sports journalist – the alter ego of The Independent’s Simon Carr, the original author – who is living in Australia and must renew his relationship with his six-year-old son Artie (Nicholas McAnulty) when his wife Katy (Laura Fraser) dies suddenly from cancer.

Still grieving, Joe takes a questionable and at times worrying laissez-faire approach to parenting (he calls it ‘just say yes’) as he tries to juggle work with child-rearing and at the same time maintain relations with a difficult mother-in-law and repair his bond with Harry (George MacKay), a teenage son from a previous marriage who breaks off his public-school education in Britain to come and stay with his father. ‘The moment you think you’re… sorted is the moment it all starts falling apart,’ says Owen’s downbeat but sympathetic voiceover.

The material may sound sentimental, but director Scott Hicks (‘Shine’) mostly avoids soppiness, even if he’s not afraid to make the odd desperate plea for empathy, and a final-reel chapter in the UK is jarring in its need for easy resolution. Hicks is well served by an endearing Owen, whose performance must rank as one of his best, and some beautiful photography from rising Aussie Greig Fraser (‘Bright Star’), whose landscape shots give us room to breathe away from domestic mayhem. Hicks’s directing style is straightforward and unfussy – a description you could apply to this big-hearted film as a whole.

By: Dave Calhoun


Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday January 22 2010
Duration: 104 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Scott Hicks
Cast: Clive Owen
Laura Fraser
George Mackay
1 person listening

This is a well scripted film, dealing with the sudden death of a partner. Owen has to come to terms with his loss, being a single parent, having to juggle family life and a career which requires travelling – and the latter don’t go hand in hand. This all felt very realistic – having seen my parents try it after separation. Owen’s relationships with his sons are superbly observed, as are his attempts to do things on his own, and in his own way by instinct (to varying degrees of success). This film is intelligent, not clichéd. The story also concentrates on the warmth of friendship between his two sons who, having lived on opposite sides of the world, get to meet one holiday – when the youngest appears to be 7, and the older of the two about 14/15. I have to say these lads are great actors, and their antics and companionship made me heartily laugh. Their often strained relationship with Owen is easy to understand, as are the times when Owen’s character lets his heart rule his head over giving the lads some freedom and fun. Anyone with sons will understand the often strange/inexplicable antics of lads – and how unintentionally funny this behaviour can be. I thought his youngest son’s made up “song� sung while bouncing on the trampoline in the garden hilarious. TO has described this as probably Clive Owen’s best performance to date. Yes, it probably is. But to say so is to slightly dismiss him in “Croupier�. This is a great film, absent of posturing, and entirely credible. Not what you’d call a “feel good� film, just realistic, and by no means downbeat. Clive Owen doesn’t disappoint in this choice of parts and acting. Other members of the audience were clearly as caught up in the film as I was, as no one spoke, played with their phone, fidgeted, or left early. I think this one might deserve a second visit. Worth 4 stars.


An enjoyable film, with a simple but credible story of a man coming to grips with single parenthood. As a male divorcee it resonated accurately with some of the issues facing life without a mother to children. Not sure why it was filmed in the middle of nowhere in deep Southern Australia other than perhaps tax breaks or why people would choose to move from UK to live there. Clive Owen was fantastic playing a man who's EQ grows through the film. Not a weepy for he guys, but another good cgi free film for adults.


I cried all the way through. Its hard to say which Clive Owen does better - the big action thriller or this kind of emotionally intimate film. He seems to switch between the genres effortlessly. He would have made a perfect Bond but the loss to the 007 franchise is our gain if he continues to make moving truthful films like this.