Tarzan Thursday: Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948)

Introduction

Last year the character of Tarzan celebrated his 100th year in print. A serialized version of the story first appeared in 1912. A hardcover collection of Tarzan of the Apes first appeared in 1914. Being in the middle of the Tarzan centennial period it’s an opportune time to (re)visit many of the screen renditions of the character.

Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948)

So as I alluded to in the last post Tarzan and the Mermaids, aside from being the last Weissmuller Tarzan, also changed some trends up. So what exactly is different? Well, there are a few things:

Firstly, Boy (Johnny Sheffield) is written out of this edition. “Boy is away at school in England,” Jane says to let the audience know. The problem with these writing-outs is they are paradoxically more interesting tales. Jane nursing soldiers; Boy being educated in the UK would’ve made interesting asides or cutaways. Thus, if you could’ve re-cast or convinced the actors to take smaller parts it would’ve been a great wrinkle to add to the tale.

As it happened that was the only mention though, it was very much a writing out. Coincidentally, Sheffield’s only other steady acting gig was as a Jungle Man, named Bomba (another coincidence), whom he played as many times as Weissmuller played Tarzan.

The issues with this last installment can be summarized by saying that the great Dmitiri Tiomkin’s score is the best part of this film. The smallest issues is that they’re rehashing the forbidden/secret society mold. As useful as it ends up being, there is a very long expository voice-over to start the film. It’s as if the whole production was a contractual obligation to everyone involved and Weissmuller and Joyce sought as little screentime as possible.

Whereas previously a matte painting of the escarpment was a major reveal, as the series progressed it went further and further in mapping Tarzan’s environs and neighbors. Here there is a tracking shot across a fictional map to the island in question near the start. This is a highlight, which illustrates what a wasteful experience this really is in the end.

The natives finally all seem to be “of color,” which is an amazing advance, and the heroics are helping the two star-crossed lovers from the island find each other again. So how can that be bad? Well, throw in a singing postman who seemingly just flew in from Latin America to sing really long “impromptu” songs about things he sees. No, this isn’t a Family Guy joke, this really happens in this film.

This film doesn’t have a second stasis but it does follow a climactic sequence with a tremendous lull that’s a failure in editorial, tonal, score-spotting and any other number of ways. It’s major lag in the third act acts as false denouement and puts the exclamation point on the complete and total mess this final installment is. It’s rare to see what ended up being the last film in a series so definitively feel like one and so richly deserve to be one. So far as this group was concerned it felt this series was over before this one even really started. And unlike other three-film segments in the series there was no feeling of finality, this film just ended like it started suddenly.

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Tarzan Thursday: Tarzan and the Huntress (1947)

Introduction

Last year the character of Tarzan celebrated his 100th year in print. A serialized version of the story first appeared in 1912. A hardcover collection of Tarzan of the Apes first appeared in 1914. Being in the middle of the Tarzan centennial period it’s an opportune time to (re)visit many of the screen renditions of the character.

Tarzan and the Huntress (1947)

Probably the most unfortunate thing about Tarzan and the Huntress is that there are good things in the script, but there’s just not enough material. At times it seems like they only started with half-a-feature-length screenplay, elongated everything, shot cutaways and time-fillers to bolster the running time.

One of the switches that works really well here is that the impending threat is introduced prior to the stasis, therefore, at the outset of the film there is greater promise than there are in many of the films. The stasis is thus leant and undercurrent of tension none of the prior ones have.

What interferes with the success of this installment most is the fact that, here perhaps more so than any other film, it seems Tarzan is the only one with a memory of past interactions with white men in the jungle. Again Boy, whose youth and naivite are harder to sell the bigger and broader he gets; and Jane’s willing acquiescence to the desires of the civilized world are what causes a majority of the issues and strife.

Conflict is necessary but considering how flip the trappers are it’s hardly necessary for them to be tricked so. Tarzan attempts diplomacy bowing to the King and they cross him many times. Now, part of the issues is the concept and the writing there’s a line of the “war taking its toll on zoos.” How? Air raids, I would assume, but it that really a justifiable reason to over-poach? The greed is now underscored furthermore the animals are usually respected greatly by Tarzan and his family so Boy giving away two cubs for a flashlight is the hardest turn of events to take in the series.

The reason it feels like have a script elongated is that there is a stasis section in the middle of the film. Much like my sudden, un-segued shift to discussing it, such is that section to the flow of the film.

The conclusion of the film is not unusual and similar to others, including the fact that it’s not really earned. The next film, and the last time Weissmuller played Tarzan, would break the mold slightly but not for the better.

Tarzan Thursday: Tarzan and the Leopard Woman (1946)

Introduction

Last year the character of Tarzan celebrated his 100th year in print. A serialized version of the story first appeared in 1912. A hardcover collection of Tarzan of the Apes first appeared in 1914. Being in the middle of the Tarzan centennial period it’s an opportune time to (re)visit many of the screen renditions of the character.

Tarzan and the Leopard Woman (1946)

If there’s one thing you can’t really knock the Tarzan movies for is that they most definitely did introduce enough tropes, setpieces and motifs such that it did give the writers the flexibility to try and break certain molds from time to time. The issues usually stemmed from trying to juggle too much and being too inconsistent in the results as it pertained to these disparate elements.

A few things change here in Tarzan and the Leopard Woman. For one we open on the other interest in this film instead of opening on Tarzan and Jane or Boy. In fact, for a few consecutive titles the opening shots were nearly identical (Boy riding an elephant). So here we learn of the Leopard people. Everyone assumes it’s a Leopard attack but we and Tarzan knows better.

There is also introduced a native doctor whose now “civilized” who plays an antagonist role and a foil to Tarzan. However, there is also the character of Kimba, who is a far more active antagonist and more two-faced as he has most of the characters fooled throughout. The last time there was an additional young character was Bomba, but he ended up being fairly superfluous. Kimba is a fairly significant character and well-portrayed by Tommy Cook.

The biggest boon to the film is that there is a different feel to it than other Tarzans without giving away too much of what happens in the latter stages of it. There’s a more insidious, subdued plotting by those who threaten Tarzan. The things that hold it back are similar to other films but those that set it apart are quite unique. It does hold some surprises and tension in the latter third that many of the titles that fall short do not. It earns a mark of distinction, if not quality, due to Jane tailspinning, time-wasting and the like.

Tarzan Thursday: Tarzan and the Amazons (1945)

Introduction

Last year the character of Tarzan celebrated his 100th year in print. A serialized version of the story first appeared in 1912. A hardcover collection of Tarzan of the Apes first appeared in 1914. Being in the middle of the Tarzan centennial period it’s an opportune time to (re)visit many of the screen renditions of the character.

Tarzan and the Amazons (1945)

So after the last installment was a triumph here is where the series should excel again, instead it starts to falter anew. Sure after two successful (at least in financial terms) go-arounds without Jane’s character being present re-introducing her, even with the need to recast here, should’ve been a no-brainer. Only the recasting wasn’t done right. This is not to lay the entire blame on Brenda Joyce. She’s not terrible, but she’s mediocre at best, and certainly at Maureen O’Sullivan’s level.

A majority of the blame though has to lay on the shoulders of the writers who through the course of Jane’s appearances in the RKO titles backslid her from being a progressive character to one who was nearly antiquated even in the 1940s. She soon began to become overly-trusting of the outside world and bowing to them too much, thereby defying Tarzan without good cause. This may have even worked if it was addressed; if Tarzan called her out. However, it was like a retcon, as if Jane was always this gullible about the world she willingly left behind and the writing of her character became even more unfortunate than the recast.

This is difficult enough to swallow without combining it nearly on a film-by-film basis with Boy either consciously or naively making a mistake. Sure, the leads can be flawed but what it does is to an extent defangs the antagonists. They seek to trick and gain confidence where maybe a few more instances of strong-arming would’ve been more effective.

Tarzan and the Amazons (1945, RKO)

I’ll grant some of those preferences are subjective, but what’s not as much is the importance of Act II and that’s where this film decides to do most of its time-wasting, which makes it a rather grueling viewing experience. What makes it worse is that it does waste some of the better elements of the film: there is an animal attack with great relevance, as opposed to the gratuitous ones in other films. Johnny Sheffield, both in reciting Hiawatha and his conflict with Tarzan, delivers his best performance as Boy, and there’s the great Maria Ouspenskaya as seemingly one of the few playing a non-caucasian character in the film. All those things go for naught due to the missteps.

I can’t fault the film for trying to create conflict, but when there are characters that are established acting somewhat out of sorts; it feels hollow. The best element of the tale is perhaps Tarzan that needed to keep a secret and not giving any clues as to the fact that there even is one, but even this becomes redundant as it’s discussed quite a few times with no progress made. It’s a good touch to have Tarzan an allied secret-keeper as opposed to an intimidating force, but, sadly this title has far too many failings.

Tarzan Thursday: Tarzan’s Desert Mystery (1943)

Introduction

Last year the character of Tarzan celebrated his 100th year in print. A serialized version of the story first appeared in 1912. A hardcover collection of Tarzan of the Apes first appeared in 1914. Being in the middle of the Tarzan centennial period it’s an opportune time to (re)visit many of the screen renditions of the character. Previous posts in this and other series can be found here.

Tarzan’s Desert Mystery (1943)

In many ways this was the title that inspired not only a chronological viewing of the Weissmuller titles but much of the impetus behind the entire series. I had heard good things about this and/or Triumphs so I was anxious to see this one a first time. Sure enough whether you come into the title cold, or you watch it in its rightful place in the series is a joyous revelation to behold. Not only does Tarzan’s Desert Mystery firmly embrace a B movie ethos here, and feel more firmly in an RKO mode than any other title, but if you follow the entire series it either repurposes tropes or uses them to maximum effect in this film. I lost track of how many times while watching it I saw a seemingly familiar instance or set-up not only followed-through, but done so in a beautifully satisfying manner.

One of the main sins of the series that is rectified here is that it hardly wastes a second through the entirety of the feature. The late-MGM and early RKO films were shorter as a rule but still had the same fillers, not so here. Perhaps it was destiny that this was the one that would work the best since the initial Wiessmuller trilogy. The studio took a flyer on writing Jane out: she is still nursing wounded soldiers at war, but the MacGuffin (Yes, there’s a MacGuffin in this film) is a journey by Tarzan and Boy for medicine.

One of the principal causes of wasted screentime in the past was Cheetah. However, in this film Cheetah not only comes to the rescue at a crucial point but is instrumental throughout. Rather than just being a kleptomaniac, and a bit of comic relief; Cheetah more frequently is an active participant in a Lassie-like mold and aids the heroes of the tale.

Tarzan's Desert Mystery (1943, RKO)

With some subdued conflict this film also addresses the father-son dynamic of Tarzan and Boy fairly well. Boy’s lie here is that Jane insists he go on the trip, though Jane is instructing he should not. Boy being the one who can read tries to use that to his advantage. Tarzan, knowing Jane and what she thinks is best for Boy, tries to keep him home. Eventually Boy’s will wins out and that is a great thing for the film also as it doesn’t split time having him chase down Tarzan or getting in some other bit of trouble. They start out on the same footing as equals.

Another massive boon to the film is Nancy Kelly in the role of Connie Brice. While she’s introduced in the only scene that feels it’s going to serve next to no purpose save for showing off a magic trick that, too, is quickly fixed. She plays the archetypal fast-talking dame and has other qualities that make her character, and her interpretation thereof, a wonderful addition to the film. The amount of intrigue she adds to the plot is spectacular. Not to mention that the conniving plots of the villains never really take a backseat and is always a real and present danger, and of impact in the story.

Tarzan's Desert Mystery (1943, RKO)

Nothing is out of place in this film. Even when there’s something weird and seemingly frivolous like a seemingly poorly scaled rear projection image, a turban theft or a jailing, things are paid off left and right there’s clearly thought behind everything in the writing and the performances.

Not only that but this movie is ridiculously fun to watch. It’s crowd-pleasing aspects drench it and still radiate off the screen to this very day. Having traversed the series anew my expectations were corrected, but even thinking back to where they (the expectations) had been this blew those right out of the water regardless. Can I claim it’s the definitive Tarzan film? No, probably not for a lack of Jane, but in latter-day terms of the Weissmuller era there was likely little if anything that could’ve been done to better it. It’s great and will likely stand as one of my favorite older films of the year.

Tarzan Thursday: Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942)

Introduction

Last year the character of Tarzan celebrated his 100th year in print. A serialized version of the story first appeared in 1912. A hardcover collection of Tarzan of the Apes first appeared in 1914. Being in the middle of the Tarzan centennial period it’s an opportune time to (re)visit many of the screen renditions of the character. Previous posts in this and other series can be found here.

Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942)

From reading some on the series, not exhaustively mind you, but I have seen mention that Maureen O’Sullivan was known to be playing Jane for the last time in this film, which is understandable. It’s understandable that an actress of her talent would want to move on to something else – in this case to devote time to her actual family offscreen. For as well as she played Jane, and as well as the writers consistently crafted her part, the need for a change can be tolerated. Similarly, the need to change venue from the escarpment can be accepted. It’s almost like airing out a play when adapting it for film. A play tends to be mostly interiors and focused on having a unity of time and space as much as possible dating back to Ancient Greece. Film by its nature needs more room in time and space.

However, it’s what done in light of these facts that isn’t all that great, along with some ancillary fumbles that take an idea with potential and makes it a sad miss. Most notably the sequences in New York don’t do great with the fish-out-of-water aspect, and introduce maybe more unfortunate racial attitudes than were ever displayed in the jungle. Even if you’re inclined to let that slide understanding it came with the time, it’s further jarring because, at least when O’Sullivan played her, Jane was a very progressive woman for the era, living in the jungle and all she willingly left behind – so being shown other antiquated attitudes stands out more.

Which brings us to one of the few bright spots this film has and it is, oddly enough, the courtroom sequence. Here both Jane and Tarzan get to speak and stake their claim to boy. It gives O’Sullivan the chance to perhaps display more range with her character than she ever did. Seeing as how in protecting Boy’s interests she makes mistakes and reels from them. Tarzan is allowed a few philosophical insights on the stand and is prodded to the point of rage and attacking the prosecutor. It’s most definitely Weissmuller’s best turn as the character. It also marks another progression as Tarzan is now more vocal than ever in part because he has to be but that has developed well throughout.

Tarzan's New York Adventure (MGM, 1942)

However, much of the sequences outside the escarpment do nothing great or exciting. As the series grew longer the running times grew shorter, but the task of crafting a good Tarzan film didn’t get easier because it seems in some installments more filler was added rather than substance, and this film is a prime example of that.

Now, I have been purposely exploring narrative patterns and some other themes that run through the series without annotating each post with a score simply because I wanted more focus on these areas as opposed to the good or bad. Similar thoughts have come to me when I tackled other series’ in the past. The precise number I’d rate it was almost an afterthought because I wanted to discuss certain things regardless of what side of the good/bad paradigm the film fell. So without bringing it up until we get to that film: there will be another good one and this is not it.

The filler, which in this film was a lot of Cheetah alone both on the escarpment and in New York was usually just her. In the plot I only noted one occasion where Cheetah’s involvement was both necessary and helpful. In production she was most helpful as she got the three leads quite a bit of time off while the camera rolled on random monkey crap.

Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942, MGM)

The naïveté and messing up of Boy landing him in trouble rears its head again. This a well that was went back to far too often with his character being too slow on the uptake. Many of the films were very concerned with how white men would try and fool or convince Tarzan who rightly grew more skeptical as the films moved on. Boy sadly got to repeat the exact same tropes too many times over. There are rare flashes of growth in his character later on that are a breath of fresh air. To be fair, he is spirited away in the end but it’s his naïveté that gets him into the situation.

Aside from the courtroom sequence the best aspect of the film is definitely the fact that, despite Tarzan seeming more able to cope with civilization than he should, Jane most definitely take the lead in their search for Boy throughout New York.

Essentially what this film hoped was that a few different setpieces while others were re-fenestrated would be enough to make it feel truly different without the film ever getting there. Essentially it started to feel like MGM was really just churning the series out at this point and it ending there was just fine. The films not only got shorter but got less score. I remember at one point when the score came in thinking “Oh, there’s the music.” Music was far more present in the first three. At this point if the series was to continue, which it did, it turning around to RKO was not necessarily a bad thing.

Tarzan Thursday – Tarzan Finds a Son! (1939)

As I mentioned in the last post, this film begins a new chapter in the trajectory of this franchise while at MGM. There was a trilogy-style approach to consolidating Jane and Tarzan’s relationship, and now, the next step would be to throw a child into the mix. While it can be said to mirror Tarzan’s beginnings (Beginnings ignored by the MGM series, and perhaps adding allure, legend and mystique to the character), the introduction of Boy is also a fairly Code-friendly affair. He is found, and not conceived, even though he’s scarcely more than a newborn.

The appeal of the series to younger audiences was likely already clinched: there was a foreign land, action, adventure, animals, and now a reflection of their age group on screen; a presence through which the viewer can live vicariously. What this second phase of films may not have in originality and quality it tries to make up for in this added layer of identification.

With a younger character/cast member being added to the mix the production schedule ramped up, this also likely has much to do with MGM trying to get all they could out of the franchise (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?) but I’m sure that having this added element contributed. The possibility of recasting at some point is dangerous, it hung like a pall over the Harry Potter series during renegotiations and production slow-downs, and a maximization of efforts are needed. Not that there appears to be as much of a master plan to the films to follow, but still the desire for more frequent output existed.

While the film adds a new element, and creates a new dynamic, the narrative framework of the film is not that unlike that in the first three. Eventually, relations of Boy’s show up. There is an inheritance plot, there is one altruistic relative who wants what’s best for him and two who are conniving.

The climactic sequences are also not that unlike prior installments: the conniving of the ‘civilized’ white folks is interfered with by native who imperil all and Tarzan comes to the rescue.

The welcome additions to the lore in this version are in the more minute details. As a whole, the bones of this story stay the same. In a certain way, the troubles that are faced by these latter installments is finding balance when a necessary new element/character is introduced. Many of the old hat time-killers (swimming, stock footage of animals, inconsequential bits of comedy by Cheetah, etc.) are still overly-present and divide time with even more principal players. Again, my having previously skipped parts and missed some may lead to finding some surprises (one of the most glaring missing titles is coming up). It just seems, in general terms, during the elongation of the series, where more creativity was needed to rise up to story challenges, what occurred instead was uninspired formula and at times apathy.

BAM Award Winners: Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Supporting Role

This is a post siphoned-off from the Young Actors post to make for easier reading/browsing that also reflects the changes in the Youth Acting categories in recent years. In 2010 the sing category was split into two unisex categories (Lead and Supporting). In 2011 Lead and Supporting categories for both genders were created.

2016 Harvey Scrimshaw The Witch

img_3300-1

2015 Ty Simpkins Jurassic World

Jurassic World (2015, Universal) 

2014 Tye Sheridan Joe

Joe (2014, Roadside Attractions)

2013 Kodi Smit-McPhee Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet (2013, Relativity Media)

2012 Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu Boy

Boy (2010, Unison Films)

2011 Ryan Lee Super 8

Best Performance by a Child Actor in a Supporting Role

2010

Though both actors and actresses were eligible for, and nominated for, this prize the winner was Janina Fautz.

Top 25 Films of 2012: 25-21

I try to keep my mind as open as possible during the year and as you start assembling a list like this you see there could be perceived slights. The fact of the matter is making this list was brutal. More than once I had to consider if I can stick to a previously made proclamation, more than once I jotted down additional titles to see if they could slide into the top 25.

T25. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close & Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life

Look, I’m not a big fan of calling ties in lists to fudge in an extra title but it’s justified here. I’ll get to why. However, I also didn’t want to throw a bone out of an honorable mention with little to no discussion of that title. Secondly, yes, Extremely Loud was nominated for an Oscar last year but I was nowhere near where it played for it’s Oscar-Qulaifying run so I only saw it when it opened wide in January.

Ok, so why a tie? Both these films deal with children who have lost their father, live in New York City and are on a mysterious journey to find an answer to a riddle their father seemingly left them. The biggest difference between the two is that in Jeremy Fink there’s not a whiff of 9/11. There are smaller ones but that’s the key. I wrote ad nauseum about my feelings on 9/11 and this film, and if forced to only pick one I’d take Extremely Loud, but that one has the fanfare and might bother you, and the other one is a smaller film, which you should not judge by its cover that’s worth a look if you like the essence of the tale and want that one element excised.

24. Lincoln

Lincoln (2012, DreamWorks)

The introductory paragraph talks about all the decisions made in this list but Lincoln particularly came to mind when writing it. To call something the 24th best film of the year sounds like a snide remark, until you consider how good the year was, the film in question and ultimately how malleable the list could be. I initially described Lincoln as a line drive for Spielberg. It’s a baseball phrase meaning he’s got a hit on his hands, extrapolating that it also refers to the constantpace of the film. The cloistered nature of the film, the political nature, the drama; are all great, but not as transcendent as some. I fully believe Spielberg got what he desired here and he was aiming for something very different list-making ultimately comes down to splitting hairs and this is where this one fell – no slight against it though.

23. Ted

I wrote about the pop of Ted and the significance that can have beyond mere identification, but what I didn’t note is that this film just works. What makes it funny and endearing is that it’s wish-fulfillment taken to comedic extremes. As kids we all wish certain things, the teddy bear one has particular pull for me, but don’t consider every eventuality. This film does that and the comedic trappings and pitfalls of the the arrested development that ensues make it great. To call it an overblown Family Guy episode would be to do it injustice because what MacFarlane and crew do here is what they can’t always do on the show, but the sensibilities and touches are there.

22. Boy

Where Boy really succeeds is in developing its characters. As I wrote about in the review, it’s really a story about accepting one’s family as is and the struggle to reach that point. The fact that it takes place in a Maori community makes it of interest to me (as I have seen good films in a similar milieu before) but the plight of the father to reconcile with his sons, and their search for acceptance and to forgive him his wrongs, are what make this film universal.

21. The Raid: Redemption

The Raid: Redemption (2011, Sony Pictures Classics)

Virtually the only mistake one can associate with this film is the indecipherable subtitle the distributor slapped on it. However, as I have argued about many a film, most notably Halloween III, “who cares what you call it? ‘cus I call it great.” I’ll readily admit things in the martial arts or action genres rarely achieve such heights for me, and my patience with them is typically thin. The story of the film has more to it than people give it credit for but the cinematography, score and fight choreography are really what make this film click as well as it does. It’s a great adrenaline rush.

Review- Boy

Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu, James Rolleston and Taika Waititi in Boy (Unison Films)

That Shakespeare line about names comes up often when I think about films, because at times a title can either say it all or say very little. A film entitled simply Boy can be seen as kind of a middle ground, it invites further investigation. A seemingly nondescript word for a title it turns out that Boy is actually what our protagonist is most commonly referred to, hence the title is eponymous.

What stands out in the early-going, as Boy (James Rolleston) introduces us to his world with an embellished front-of-class presentation, is that the film can be said to have some flair and originality. There are flashes of a fantasized life both in live action and in child-like animation. What it brought to mind was Submarine, which made me cautious. There are great things going on in the first half of that film (a film too many callously over-simplify) but that spark and originality only carries it so far as I feel it gets bogged down. Here quite the opposite happens, while the quirkier elements are more intermittent as the film progresses the elements do get to the heart of the characters, and help to develop the comedy and drama inherent in the story. They are a boon to the film and a segue into the world.

The film is a tale of a father’s estrangement from his family, his son’s desire to have him around, to reconcile with him and coming to terms with the realities of one’s family. Given some of the facts of the story it could be too easy to take the story to a melodramatic or maudlin place but this film never does that. This is, of course, a credit to the screenplay but also to the actors. The first of note being Taika Waititi, who not only plays the father but is the film’s writer and director, what makes this fact even more impressive is that I didn’t know that beforehand and found that not only was his comic persona a rival to a Paul Rudd character but he also plays the more dramatic portions of the story very well. Add that to all the behind the scenes work he did, being the heart and soul of the film, and it’s truly brilliant and awe-inspiring.

The equilibrium of tone allows this film to have quite a brisk pace, which makes it an enjoyable watch regardless of the tonal shift in the story. Things time out just right and no section of the film seems disproportional.

While the film is about Boy and it very much focuses on his character’s arc, his younger brother Rocky (Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu) has a very significant subplot. Eketone-Whitu’s performance is one which is much more silent than Rolleston’s but every bit as effective. He is quiet because he feels like an outsider and due to certain facts about his character is struggling to embrace not only his place in the family but also who he is.

Which leads me to another brilliant touch this film has, Rocky’s conflict is with his past and his brother, in part it makes him quieter and kinder and also leads him to bond with a character they refer to as Weirdo (Waihori Shortland). To not discuss it too much, part of what makes it so great is not just the natural, logical connection they share but it takes a character that seems like he’ll be excess and makes him essential. Similarly, Boy has quite a journey in his tale but his certain isolation and conflict with his father makes him a bit angrier, so his personal connection is to fantasy and his idolatry of Michael Jackson, which considering it’s set in 1984 is a logical choice.

I’ve written quite a bit about endings, not in the broader sense as in happy or sad, open or resolved; but rather in the minute sense of picking the precise moment and the precise note. This film ends perfectly. It ends with a punchline but also with the realization of who their father is and embracing that for better or worse. The tale is truly complete and the film is over. Both boys have gone through very different reactions to their father’s return to their life and their emotions have run the gamut, but they’ve reached a peace with what the unchangeable status quo is.

Boy is an excellent film, which illustrates best how specificity translates to universality. This is a film set in 1984 on the east coast of New Zealand about a Māori family yet you can be on any continent in any corner of the world and enjoy this film and take something away from it. Why? Because it’s true and connects to something innate in all people, which makes it great.

10/10