Likeable, imaginative tale of father - son bonding.
I was drawn to Boy by the C.V. of the director, having previously helmed a few episodes of The Flight of the Conchords, which is as much of a stamp of quality as anyone should need. I suppose the obvious touchstone for this New Zealandish film would be Whale Rider although dumping this into the general category of "coming of age" tale is probably doing it a disservice.
A young boy going by the name of Boy (James Rolleston), or on occasion Alamein, lives with his grandmother, younger brother Rocky (Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu) and several nieces in a humble farm, his mother having died some years previously, and his father away on either a variety of exotic adventures, if you listen to Boy's imagination, or gaol, if you're more of a reality based type of guy.
While Boy seems happy enough going through his life, things get a little more complicated when his father returns, confusingly enough also named Alamein, although he prefers to be called Shogun. He's now calling himself leader of a gang called the Crazy Horses, although I'm not sure three people really constitutes a gang.
What follows is an exploration of the father - son bond, given an unusual twist in this case in as much as Boy starts the film being far more responsible and grounded than his father, who seems far more at home playing pretend soldiers than with the duties of fatherhood. At least these antics make for amusing viewing until we find out what Shogun's running from, reverting to adolescence to avoid dealing with.
Boy captures wonderfully the grand fantasies of playful youth, the exuberance and the wild flights of imagination that have to be abandoned, or at least heavily curtailed in adulthood. It's a greatly entertaining and likeable movie, that's often hilarious, consistently well made and on occasion packs a powerful emotional punch.
If there's a failing in Boy it's the role that writer/director Taika Waititi has created for himself in the shape of Alamein's father, who along with his 'gang' members are several shades too dumb too exist in reality. Taken as a broad caricature filtered through the eyes of a youngster it's not so bad and doesn't feel out of place in context, but subjected to any closer scrutiny the role falls apart.
It is, however, a very well performed caricature, and one that's frequently very amusing. Similarly excellent performances come from youngster James Rolleston and Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu playing Alamein and Rocky. While there's a very solid case to say that this won't be the best made film to appear at this years EIFF, so far it's been the most enjoyable.
Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu (Rocky)
Taika Waititi (Alamein)