“What if the hero you’ve been waiting for is a dick?”
That is one of a few choice taglines of Taika Waititi’s BOY, the tale of an eleven-year-old living with his grandmother, brother, a slew of cousins, and dreams of fame and family. His mother has died during childbirth, and Boy believes his father to be an athlete, war hero, and anything other than the imprisoned deadbeat he actually is. When his father finally returns, Boy must face the truth of who he is, why he left, why he’s returned, and what dreams can be salvaged in the aftermath.
BOY is relentlessly charming. Waititi has painted us a portrait of mid-80s New Zealand; its landscapes shimmer with a downtrodden innocence, and its characters (exceptionally-acted, both child and adult) accentuate this painting with inexhaustible humor and beauty. Tina Cleary, the film’s casting director, should be knighted.
The relationships among Boy, Alamein (his father), and Rocky (his brother), though rather fantastical in nature, do maintain a certain reality and sincerity that endear us to each of them. We become so emotionally invested in keeping this family together that we have difficulty taking sides in confrontation. Yes, there is heartbreak and tragedy, but it is coupled with a humor so rich and genuine, we aren’t allowed any time to remain upset.
Though I have spent the past few days trudging through the snow of Park City, BOY transported me to a seaside summer in the Southern Pacific, but warmed my heart before my body. It is, by far, my favorite film of the festival thus far.