“Boy” Wins You
Over With Its
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Eric Holowacz, former executive director of The Studios of Key West, came here from Wellington, New Zealand. He’s now in Australia, but we stay in touch on Facebook. I was thinking of him while I watched “Boy,” a 2010 coming-of-age film about a New Zealander boy named Boy.
Written and directed by Taika Waititi, “Boy” is the highest grossing New Zealand film of all time.
“Welcome to my interesting world,” Boy introduces the film. He worships Michael Jackson, but his absentee dad even more. In his mind, his father is a master carpenter, deep-sea diver, captain of the rugby team, and holds the record for the punching out the most people with one hand.
Boy is an 11-year-old who lives on a farm with his grandmother, a goat, numerous cousins, and a younger brother who thinks he has superpowers. When his nanny goes off to attend a funeral in Wellington, the boys’ ne’er-do-well father shows up to search for hidden treasure (“A package about this big, covered in plastic”). Far from being the heroic dad his sons had imagined, Alamein is a “renegade” who cares more for money and scallywag schemes than fatherhood.
“We’ll be leaving with him when he goes,” believes Boy. But Alamein says, “I’m a busy man.” So Boy and Rocky must face up to the sad reality of their down-under family life.
James Rolleston is winning as Boy, and so is Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu as his brother. The mustachioed bushy-haired director steps into the role of their no-good dad as smoothly as a greasy hand in a biker’s glove.
Also known as Taika Cohen (his mother’s name), Taika Waititi is a New Zealand-born actor, writer, painter, comedian and filmmaker. In 2007 Variety tagged him as one of “ten new directors to watch.”
I asked Eric Holowacz if he’d seen the film. After all, New Zealand is a land he knows so well (despite hailing from South Carolina).
Eric responded, “I have seen Taika Waititi’s film, ‘Boy,’ and knew him as Taika Cohen back when we were building the Wellington Arts Centre. His previous film, ‘Eagle vs. Shark,’ was based at my arts center (known by the Maori name, Toi Poneke). He’s from a Maori family group that is of the same land where ‘Whale Rider’ was set. ‘Boy’ has the Kiwi characteristic of mixing the serious with the comedic, or rather following one with the other.”
My take? Boy’s brother Rocky might not have superpowers, but Taika Waititi certainly has a touch of magic in his storytelling.