The Boys Are Back

George MacKay as Harry, Clive Owen as Joe, Nicholas McAnulty as Artie in The Boys Are Back.
George MacKay as Harry, Clive Owen as Joe, Nicholas McAnulty as Artie in The Boys Are Back.

In the Oscar derby for Best Actor, is it better to die or to grieve? Clive Owen opts for the latter route in this strained, sentimental adaptation of a memoir by widowed English journalist Simon Carr. His 2001 book — boozy, breezy, and thoroughly unsystematic — was a precursor to the new laissez-faire parenting movement, which Owen's sportswriter character describes for his two sons (teen and preteen) as "just say yes." The approach is, let them play with sharp sticks, let them make a mess, let them stay up late, etc. In the gorgeous coastal province of South Australia, the results are like Lord of the Flies meets a J. Crew catalog spread. Both star and producer (and a father off-screen), Owen is determined to present his gentler domestic side here: He cries and grieves and learns to juggle career and home life — all without the benefit of estrogen! But this father and his film — directed by Shine's Scott Hicks — are fun to watch only while the mischief outweighs the mending. Inevitably, this all-male household must come to terms with, ahem, feelings, which kills the testosterone buzz. Carr's original anecdotes don't supply much story line, so Hicks spans the gaps with golden-lit montages set to Sigur Rós. They're a great advertisement for Australian vacations. And vasectomies.

 
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