May 7, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Boy makes the New York Times and gets a pretty darn good review at that!

3 min read

Adult Responsibilities, but a Childs Sensibility

Boy Expounds on Life in Maori Village

NYT Critics’ Pick

Next years Oscars, if they were to include the just-for-fun idea of outstanding performance by a setting, should have a nominee inBoy.This movie from New Zealand, filmed in a Maori village near theBay of Plenty, belongs in the pantheon of quaint and quirky locales that make for memorable films.

At least I hope so, forBoyexplores the areas rugged natural beauty without ignoring its poverty and, more important, without expecting place to do all the work of the movie. This unpretentious comic tale of a youngsters growing relationship with a long-absent father has a surprising rhythmic genius: joy juxtaposed with humiliation, silliness with sadness, fantasy with reality, and none of it formulaic. The editing feels fresh, as does the film.

Boy is also blessed with two gentle and lovely performances by inexperienced child actors. In the title role (an 11-year-old everyone calls Boy), James Rolleston is an unaffected natural. He seems responsible beyond his years when caring for his family of younger siblings, yet hes able to play the fool when romancing a schoolmate or pretending to worldliness. To watch him puzzle over his returned dad (Taika Waititi, the director and writer) is to see wishes become thinking and then epiphanies. Yet never does Boy seem to be a little adult; this is a child, with a childs acute passions and disappointments.

Te Aho Eketone-Whitu evokes great feeling as Rocky, Boys younger brother, whose birth led to the death of their mother; he spends most of his time at her colorfully painted gravestone. Because of his birth tale, the modest Rocky is convinced that he has great power, superpowers in fact, that he cant control. His lonely world and fantastical ability to cope are recognizable while also individual.

Dont fear; Boy is not at all a downer. For one, theres a funny recognition of the power of pop culture, perhaps especially among those whose lives feel so invisible: its 1984, Boy is obsessed withMichael Jacksons Thriller,and some of the children are named Dallas, Dynasty and Falcon Crest. For another, theres Mr. Waititis broad portrayal of Alamein, the father with a rugged bikers shell but a playful childs spirit.

That makes for three often endearing boys, though adults who act like children arent always the best parents. Alamein sure isnt. His delusions (he and a pair of loser buds, ridiculously, fancy themselves a gang, but theyre serious about their drugs) run smack into Boys hero worship. The clashes are sometimes rich with feeling and eventually transformative, for both characters.

A work as original as Boy is bound to have less solid moments, but theyre mostly forgivable: a somewhat lackadaisical momentum in the middle, a few showy notes in Mr. Waititis performance. Unfortunately the bulk of the Jackson material, in some ways the hook of the film, seems the least organic in whats already a strong personal story.

So what, really? The rustic Kiwi feel of Boy will still grow on you, and deservedly so.


Opens on Friday in Manhattan.

Written and directed by Taika Waititi; director of photography, Adam Clark; edited by Chris Plummer; music by the Phoenix Foundation; production design by Shayne Radford; costumes by Amanda Neale; produced by Ainsley Gardiner, Cliff Curtis and Emanuel Michael; released by Paladin. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: James Rolleston (Boy), Te Aho Eketone-Whitu (Rocky) and Taika Waititi (Alamein).

More About This Movie

1 thought on “Boy makes the New York Times and gets a pretty darn good review at that!

  1. T?n? koutou katoa! Hope the US enjoys BOY as much as we all have here in Aotearoa (New Zealand) for years. Also I hope some Americans will realise we are not Australia, and not a country in Europe (but please don’t all come visit at once)!

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