Friday, March 16, 2018

Boy (2010 film)

Written, directed, and co-starring Taika Waititi, Boy is the story of two brothers who learn their father is returning as they deal with his arrival as well as growing pains as it relates to the death of their mother. The film is a coming-of-age film set in a small town in New Zealand in 1984 as two boys don’t just cope with loss but also deal with fantasy and reality as it relates to their father returning home. Also starring James Rolleston, Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu, Moerangi Tihore, Rachel House, and Cherilee Martin. Boy is a touching yet whimsical film from Taika Waititi.

The film follows two young boys living in the small New Zealand town near the Bay of Plenty region where they get an unexpected from their absentee father believing he’s going back to be a full-time father unaware of his real intentions of returning home. It’s a film that blur the ideas of fantasy and reality where it’s the former that surrounds the mind of its titular protagonist (James Rolleston) who believes his father Alamein (Taika Waititi) is doing all sorts of things such as being a war hero, an artist, and all sorts of things though he does know that his father has also been in prison. When Alamein does return home while his mother has gone to Wellington to attend a funeral leaving Boy to watch over his little brother Rocky (Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu) and their cousins. Taika Waititi’s screenplay opens with Boy telling these stories during a day in school as he is someone filled with a lot of fantasies in his head as well as the belief that his father met Michael Jackson whom he and many of the kids in the town idolize.

Boy and Rocky live with their grandmother and cousins as their mother had died giving birth to the latter as the memories of her passing would recur in Alamein and Boy’s mind as it’s something neither want to deal with. For Rocky, he is consumed with guilt over the idea that his arrival killed his mother where he believes he has special powers while he is suspicious about his father’s return. Alamein would return with a couple of friends who are part of his gang as he would take Boy under his wing in the hope he can find what he claims is buried treasure. Boy is also someone trying to deal with the idea of winning over a classmate in Chardonnay (RickyLee Waipuka-Russell) as well as be one of the cool kids despite having friends who are also outcasts of sorts because they’re oddballs. During the course of the story, Boy would help his father find the buried treasure as he would call him Shogun while Rocky would watch from a distance as he befriends a local eccentric named Weirdo (Waihoroi Shortland).

Waititi’s direction does have elements of style yet it does have this balance of grounded reality as he shoots the film on location at the Bay of Plenty region in New Zealand. With a cast that largely consists of Maori-based locals, Waititi would make a film that is more about oddballs and their surroundings that is completely removed from more conventional ideas of society in well-known cities like Auckland and Wellington. While Waititi would use a lot of wide shots of the locations, Waititi would also use close-ups and medium shots to establish the characters and their own encounter with someone or something. Even as he would create recurring compositions to mix in with the idea of Boy’s fantasy about his father and the reality of who he is. Notably as Waititi would create these whimsical scenes of fantasy including re-creation of sets that pay tribute to the music videos of Michael Jackson during the Thriller era with kids wearing clothes similar to what Jackson wore during that time.

The film also features bits of hand-drawn Crayola animated sequences as it relates to Rocky’s own guilt and belief that he has powers where it carries an air of innocence into not just the ideas of fantasy but also what Rocky believe his father and brother are feeling as it relates to his late mother. Even as the third act does have Rocky eventually warming up to his father though with a sense of caution while Boy would also have to cope with the realities of the world as well as what he did find. Yet, it would also feature these moments where it is clear that Boy’s perception of who his father starts to unravel as Alamein is really a child in his own ways as someone who is still hung up on causing trouble and not taking responsibility. All of which plays into the fact that he is unable to face the truth about his wife’s death as well as playing a role in what he’s supposed to be for Boy and Rocky. Overall, Waititi crafts a charming yet heartfelt film about a boy dealing with the return of his estranged father.

Cinematographer Adam Clark does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as it is very colorful in capturing the look of the New Zealand bushes and locations by emphasizing on the natural look while infusing some stylish lighting for the fantasy scenes as well as a few scenes at night. Editor Chris Plummer does excellent work with the editing as it does have elements of style in the jump-cuts and other stylish cuts to play into the humor as well as some of the film’s dramatic moments. Production designer Shayne Radford does amazing work with the look of the recreation fantasy scenes as well as the sense of realism in the look of the locations to play into a world that is ordinary but also unique in its own way. Costume designer Amanda Neale does fantastic work with the costumes as it does bear into bits of style in what was cool during the 1980s with some more lavish work for the fantasy scenes.

Hair/makeup designer Dannelle Satherley does terrific work with the look of the characters including the hairstyle of the times including Boy’s haircut to look a bit like Michael Jackson. Visual effects supervisor Brett Johansen does nice work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects as it relates to some of the fantasy scenes as well as the animated sequences. Sound designer Tim Prebble does superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the locations as well as the sound effects in some of the fantasy scenes. The film’s music by Lukasz Pawel Buda, Samuel Scott, and Conrad Wedde of the Phoenix Foundation is wonderful for its low-key mixture of folk and indie rock that play into some of the adventurous moments as well as the moments of melancholia while music supervisors Chris Gough and Jonathan Hughes provide an array of offbeat music including the music of the times from acts like Musical Youth, Patea Maori Club, Herbs, Prince Tui Teka, St. Josephs Maori Girls Choir, and the Ratana Senior Concert Party.

The casting by Tina Cleary is incredible as it feature some notable small roles from Mavis Paenga as Boy and Rocky’s grandmother who is also Alamein’s mother who goes away to attend a funeral, Cohen Holloway and Pana Hema Taylor as two of Alamein’s friends/cohorts in their respective roles in Chuppa and Juju, Craig Hall as Boy’s school principal Mr. Langston who believes Boy has some potential to do more, Manihera Ranguiaia as a bully in Kingi, Darcy Ray Flavell-Hudson as Kingi’s older brother who wants to be in Alamein’s gang, Rajvinder Eria and Maakariini Butler as a couple of Boy’s friends in their respective roles as Tane and Murray, and Rachel House in a terrific small role as Boy and Rocky’s aunt Gracey who runs a local store and does all sorts of things while isn’t entirely fond of Alamein.

Waihoroi Shortland is superb as the local eccentric Weirdo who is believed to be mentally challenged as he is always trying to find things in a river when he’s really just a harmless man that Rocky befriends. Cherilee Martin is excellent as Boy and Rocky’s young cousin Kelly who is suspicious about her uncle’s return as she finds herself having to take care of her younger sisters when Boy spends time with his father. Moerangi Tihore and Haze Reweti are fantastic as the siblings in their respective roles in Dynasty and Dallas with the former as a girl who has feelings for Boy while the latter is an oddball who is Boy’s best friend. RickyLee Waipuka-Russell is wonderful as Chardonnay as Boy’s crush who is also a schoolmate that becomes interested in Boy because of his father and the people he brings in.

Taika Waititi is brilliant as Alamein as a man who returns home for selfish reasons where he tries to play dad only to use Boy in finding his treasure and lead his gang as they would eventually get in trouble. Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu is amazing as Rocky as 7 year old boy who believes he has super powers as he copes with the idea that he killed his mother in childbirth while becoming suspicious over his dad’s return as it’s an understated yet mature performance from the young actor. Finally, there’s James Rolleston is remarkable in his role as the titular character as a 11 year old boy who has a wild imagination into what he thinks his father is doing as he hopes he can be cool while later dealing with growing pains and memories of his mother which he is unable to cope with that loss and the realities of who his father really is.

Boy is a phenomenal film from Taika Waititi. Featuring a great cast, beautiful images, a compelling story, and a lively film soundtrack. It’s a coming-of-age film that showcases two boys dealing with the return of their father and sense of loss while dealing with the ideas of fantasy. In the end, Boy is a sensational film from Taika Waititi.

Taika Waititi Films: Two Cars, One Night - Eagle vs. Shark - What We Do in the Shadows - Hunt for the Wilderpeople - Thor: Ragnarok - Jojo Rabbit - Thor: Love and Thunder - Next Goal Wins (2023 film) - (Klara and the Sun) - Auteurs #64: Taika Waititi

© thevoid99 2018


Brittani Burnham said...

I haven't seen this one of Taika's but this review makes me want to.

Dell said...

What little of his work I've seen I like, so I'm definitely game for this one. It sounds like another winner.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-This is the film that is probably the one that needs to be seen more as I was able to find it through torrents as I think it's one of his best films to date. Oh and reading from your Twitter scroll at your blog, there is a big reason why "Immigrant Song" fits in with Thor: Ragnarok so perfectly. Listen to the song's lyrics as it feature a lot of Nordic mythological references and the characters from the Thor comics were also inspired by Nordic folklore so it makes perfect sense for Led Zeppelin used in Thor: Ragnarok. I just hope they use more Zeppelin music for Thor as he is what AC/DC is to Iron Man and the Ramones to Spider-Man.

@Wendell-This is definitely a defining work of Waititi as if you see this film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and his first film Eagle vs. Shark. You will find a common theme in the films he makes as there's elements of that in Thor: Ragnarok.

Anonymous said...

I love Taika and have for probably more than a decade now. I love the sense of place he gives his movies, he really grounds them in his setting. It was interesting to watch him do Thor and do the same there, but of course on a grander (and more fictional) scale. But I mostly love his little NZ movies which I just want to hug to my chest forever.

thevoid99 said... now seen all of his films and shorts, I believe that Taika is one of the best filmmakers working today. He definitely has a unique voice and I like the fact that he chooses to make films in his home country as well as take the opportunity to do something like Thor: Ragnarok and infuse his own ideas that makes it so special.