Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Coming-of-age, but fresh.
I don’t really like coming-of-age films. I think they’re tacky and are all pretty much identical. I see them as films that have very little to no plot as they just…follow around the main character seemingly with no real direction. Well, that’s how I see it anyway. There are a precious few out there that actually follow a path, and you know where it’s going, making it overall…a better movie experience in my books. About a Boy is one such movie. There’s a lot of greatness to this film, but yeah, it also had things that confused me as well…which we’ll get into. Let’s break it down.
So this film is about this boy…sorry…couldn’t resist. It’s really about two boys. One younger and one older, and I would say they both have equal importance. The older, Will Freeman, is a shallow womanizing man-child that has never had to work a day in his life, thanks to his father, who held a one-hit wonder. The younger one, Marcus Brewer, is an oddball kid with a weird personality, depressed mother, and heavily bullied life. When the two meet, Marcus looks up to Will as a father figure of sorts when he can’t consult personal issues with his mother, because she recently attempted suicide. Meanwhile, without knowing it, Will looks up to Marcus as a wake-up call and an instructor as to what life is really all about.
This film is pretty much about growing up…from everyone around. It was about finding that inner peace and maybe self-actualization without depending on someone else specifically. Social interaction can help in the short run, but to be truly happy, you got to figure stuff out on your own first. That was a huge message of this film, and I’m really happy with the way they told it. For example, I was really impressed that the film wasn’t predictable. Everything about the film initially screams predictability. The first thing your mind shoots to is: Hugh Grant will find out this kid is really his son, because he sleeps around and because they are both narrating the movie. When that doesn’t pan through, your mind skips to: Well that’s obviously not his son, but he will clearly fall in love with the depressed mother that needs someone in her life.
Beautifully, the movie ignores all predictability that this could have easily fallen into a trap with and creates its own path, one that I can really respect. It’s pretty much done in two or three acts that covers everything from being a complete selfish screw-up to being a decent human being. It covers ground with important issues like bullying, responsibility, and an accurate depiction of depression that springs up at confusing times and for reasons that may not make any sense to you. That’s realistic and Toni Collete is always so talented in everything she does. There is no exception here. It faces these issues with a kind and very human sense of humor that has the ability to warm your heart.
Now there were things I didn’t like about it, and that’s true. I didn’t really understand the point to all the narration. I get that it furthered the point that these two were both equally important to the film, but overall…I don’t think it really added that much to anything. Narration isn’t so bad though, when you start to think of the weird things that happen that don’t really have any explanation…like bizarre Marcus, who randomly sings without noticing he does it. Or how both Marcus and Will see, like, a ghost or a vision of their parents a clear as day before they vanish. No explanation. My best guess is to reel in an audience because they are peculiar and intriguing characters…and that may be true, but I just found that to be…weird.
Even if you don’t like coming-of-age man-child films, this movie represents it in a new light that feels fresh and very human. It tackles really important issues brave and true and never disrespects any of them realistically speaking. The movie is good enough to have warranted a TV show, which apparently is going to show up on NBC soon. We’ll see how that goes.
Ghosts, random singing without noticing it…kind of weird, and the narration seemed unneeded. Overall, it’s good, but that stuff that I consider bad for the film are so out there that it feels really foreign.
Christine: You will end up childless and alone.
Will: Well, fingers crossed, yeah.