Boy


Directed by: Taika Waititi
Written by:Taika Waititi
Starring: James Rolleston, Taika Waititi, Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu
Released: August 26, 2010
Grade: A-

If you scan through the list of films which have topped the weekly box-office in New Zealand this year, you’ll find some familiar titles – Avatar, Alice In Wonderland, Toy Story 2 and Inception.  What do they have in common?  They’re all big-budget movies (both in terms of production costs and marketing) and they’re all American.

It’s pretty hard for filmmakers to compete against these blockbusters but Kiwi director Taika Waititi has found a way.  Shot on a relatively small budget, Boy has become the biggest locally-made film at the New Zealand box-office (passing Once Were Warriors and The World’s Fastest Indian).  It spent an amazing 16 weeks inside the top 10.

So why was this film so popular?  It’s doesn’t have a popular Hollywood star and it doesn’t have expensive special effects.  What it does have… is a great story.  It starts out as a fairly innocuous comedy but it gradually develops into something more dramatic, more meaningful.  Based on its success in New Zealand, it’s very easy for me to call it a “crowd pleaser”.

Boy (Rolleston) is an 11-year-old kid who comes from the small town of Waihau Bay.  He lives with is grandmother and younger brother, Rocky (Eketone-Whitu).  His mother died several years ago and his father hasn’t been around.  To compensate for the lack of a father-figure, Boy has made up a bunch of stories about his dad.  He tells everyone at school that his father is a war hero and a deep-sea diver.

It’s all about to change however. The father (Waititi) unexpectedly appears and wants to become part of his two son’s lives.  Things go well at first.  The dad takes them to the beach and takes them for a ride his flashy car.  Rocky has a few hesitations but Boy has developed an instant liking for this father.  He thinks he’s really funny and cool.

The novelty of the situation starts to wear off however.  Boy soon realises that his dad has many flaws.  He’s like a big kid who never grew up – making big promises and avoiding responsibility.  Boy must try to reconcile his perfect “fantasy” dad with his not-so-perfect “real” dad.  It leaves him wondering.  Does he really need his father after all?

Audiences will fall in love with Boy and Rocky – played by newcomers James Rolleston and Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu.  They had no previous acting experience but that’s exactly what Waititi was looking for.  He wanted them to be natural.  You’ll enjoy their silly, immature nature too.  They’re good “eggs”.

With many humorous references to the 1980s (just wait until you see their clothing), Boy is a well-told tale with a nice balance of comedy and drama.  It’ll leave you feeling good.

You can read my interview with director Taika Waititi by clicking here.