The Boys Are Back opens with a father (Clive Owen) driving along the beach, ever so close to the water, with his young son (Nicolas McAnulty) riding along on the roof of the car. Director Scott Hicks brings his latest film as close to the edge of cliché as Owen does his son to the ocean, but fortunately both know when to get back to reality before it's too late.
This particular reality had me teary within 15 minutes of the opening credits. Owen, who may find his name tossed around come awards season for this one, plays an international sports writer based in Australia. He's barely home but that all changes when his beautiful wife (Laura Fraser) dies suddenly of cancer. Now, Owen must cope with the loss of the woman he loved and figure out the mind of a toddler. To make matters even more complicated, but not necessarily worse, Owen's teenaged son from a previous marriage, Harry (George Mackay), is sent to live with him shortly afterwards. The boys behave very badly but always with the hope of healthy growth ahead of them.
Hicks rose to fame in 1997 with two Oscar nominations for his biopic of David Helfgott, Shine; his record has been spotty at best since. The Boys Are Back may not garner that same kind of acclaim, given the difficulty of the subject matter, but those who see it will remember why he was recognized to begin with. (Maple)