The premise of Scott Hicks’ The Boys are Back has movie-of-the-week written all over it. Joe Warr (Clive Owen), a dad who’s hardly ever around, finds himself adrift when he’s faced with raising his young son (Nicholas McAnulty) after his wife succumbs to cancer. Barely coping at this, he’s forced to come to terms with his other son, a teenager (George MacKay) from a previous relationship who winds up on his doorstep at the worst possible time.
To say that Warr’s parenting skills need polishing is a bit of an understatement. He fails to realize that his philosophy of saying “yes” to everything has its limits. Unsupervised mayhem ensues at every turn in the household. While both boys regard the turmoil in different ways, there’s no denying that in the end their father’s unorthodox approach helps each deal with their individual losses.
Hicks and Owen walk the tightrope here and for the most part, they avoid laying it on too thick as far as the pathos is concerned. They both know that the film’s premise only works if you play it straight and their restraint — especially from Owen, who realizes that less is more in this type of situation — helps the film succeed as a domestic drama rather than a shameless tearjerker. While it does meander at times, in the end Boys earns the tears it honestly evokes.
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