Boy (2010) dir. Taika Waititi
Starring: James Rolleston, Te Aho Eketone-Whitu, Taika Waititi
By Alan Bacchus
Writer/Director Taika Waititi (Eagle vs. Shark) delves back his own childhood experiences expanding his Oscar-nominated short ‘Two Cars, One Night“ into this, his sophomore feature.
It’s 1984 and Boy is a young parentless child who has invented tall tales of his absentee father whom he hasn’t seen since the death of his mother. To Boy his father is a war hero, a deep sea diver, and crack escape artist. In his idiosyncratic kiwi style Waititi crafts a clever and imaginative pre credit sequence visualizing Boy’s adventurous life he has invented for his father
And so when his father, named Alamein after the WWII battle, actually shows up at his door, we’re quickly brought back down to the reality of his pathetic existence. It’s no surprise his dad is anything but the courageous adventurer, only a shadowy petty criminal who arrives with two of his dimwit buddies in search of a bag of cash buried before his incarceration. With his poofed out afro and handlebar moustache Alamein struts around Boy’s village like big man on campus, with Boy in awe of his boisterous but shallow presence. For Boy though, despite Alamein’s irresponsibility, he idolizes his father making up for lost time by engaging in paternal bonding in samurai posturing, and marijuana picking.
Like Eagle Vs. Shark, Boy coasts on the same whimsical tone of absurd deadpan comedy and melancholy personal reflection. The skewed Kiwi humour mixes well with his rather indistinct Wes Anderson/Jared Hess visual style.
It’s the year of Thriller and even in the far corner of New Zealand, on the other side of the world the king of pop has managed to touch the dreams of this humble 11 year old boy. Though the early 80’s aesthetic is past being played out cinematically admittedly it produces some fun dream sequences involving Boy’s idol Michael Jackson. The end credit sequence in particular, an extended Maori version of the Thriller, dance provides a rip roaring finale.
But its Waititi’s ability to mix fantasy with a real world humanist sensibility conveying a genuine bittersweet feeling of what its like to see witness the disintegration of one’s family. A remarkably profound flashback to Boy’s life before his mother’s death late in the picture elevates the poignancy of this picture to a level of maturity above “Eagle Vs. Shark” thus making the film a success.