The Boys Are Back


As I reflect on what would have been my 19th wedding anniversary, I continue to wonder, What if? Of course it’s impossible to imagine and yet, I still can in a way. Tonight we might have sat in a quiet restaurant somewhere nibbling sushi, or maybe we would now share in our kid’s new foodie delights. Whatever, it would have been a quiet affair.

I had a taste last night of what Arron’s life might have been like if the tables had been turned, had been me in the Trade Center that day. I was invited to a special viewing of the movie The Boys Are Back with (yum) Clive Owen. Its about a father who loses his wife to cancer and is left to raise their 6-year old son and eventually his 15 (or so)-year old son from a previous marriage. Cinematically (quite possibly a new word made up for my debut as a movie reviewer) it was beautiful. Set in the rolling wine country of Australia with painterly views of ocean slashed with undulating grasslands and meticulous rows of vines, the views created a mood in keeping with the subject matter. Nature charging forth in its never-ending cycles.

The various universalities of widow-dom (where are all these new words coming from?) were well represented: the anger, the drinking, the lack of housework, the comatose/angry kids, the wild abandon of routine, the doubting mother-in-law, the almost-love interest, the stressful job. My only gripe was that all this was displayed during a few short weeks of the father’s grief process. But that’s movies for you.

I was astounded at the young boy’s (Artie) ability to show the range of emotion required for the role. He managed to capture the 6 year old’s desire to pretend nothing was wrong, and then show great insight, extreme, irrational anger, finally falling apart completely by lying in a catatonic state on the floor.

Oddly, the storyline that touched me more, was that of the older son, Harry who had essentially been abandoned by his father (at the same age as Artie). It was touching to watch him deal with the loss of his parent, as though his loss was fresh. He harboured the same anger as Artie, and they seemed to bond by virtue of having lost a parent at a young age.

Of course the movie ends on a relatively happy note, presumably within the same year of the wife’s death, which any bereaved parent knows is a little far-fetched, but I was happy to see a film that dealt with loss head on, and handled it with the delicacy and intricacy that loss seems to warrant.

I had stuffed my purse with tissues for this one, but surprisingly didn’t use them. The film was infused with humour, mostly at the hands of young Artie, but also in the sheer abandon that Clive Owen’s character learns to offset the difficult moments. It may be that I am hardened to watching others undertake their own losses, or because the main character was a man and thus was slightly removed from my own experience, but I was glad that somehow the movie was more poignant and humourous than outright sad.

I never thought I would find pleasure at a movie about loss, but strangely its good to be reminded once in a while that we are not alone. And maybe not even crazy.

10 Comments

  1. anniegirl1138 September 29, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Widow movies don't make me tear up either. I think it is the fascination thing, watching someone else go through something I know more intimately the people who made the movie probably do. I am a critic.

    Drinking? I must be weird because I never drank. In fact, the idea of induced numbness really repelled me because it was hard enough to feel sometimes as it was without putting up more barriers.

    Thanks for the review. I'd read about this and wondered if it would be worth a rent when it hits dvd (very little entices me into a theatre anymore).

    Happy Anniversary by the way. I never know it that's appropriate. Technically the anniversaries of life are frozen in time and we only get the saddest one to add numbers too.

  2. Jill Schacter September 29, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Thanks for this review.

    As for your last couple of lines:

    Although It often can feel it, you are not alone and you are not crazy. Either that or you are crazy but in very large company!

    My husband has been gone almost four years now and I feel like I'm going through some new phase where my phone has almost completely stopped ringing…but this time I'm relaxing into the solitude, or trying too…until I'm motivated back into the world of the non-bereaved.

    Reading your words makes me feel less alone, that's for sure.

    Keep it up.

  3. Roads September 29, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Thanks for the pointer to this film, Abby. More grist to the mill, and Clive Owen is always great.

    Not least because he's great at what he does and still lives with his family in unpretentious Coventry, rather than in celebville in Hollywood.

    I'll look out for the movie!

  4. Crash Course Widow September 29, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    I got an invite to the Portland screening next week too. Glad to see your thoughts on it, Abby. I must be a bit of a stereotype: I'll go see most widow or widower movies (and often will buy novels about them if I come across them) just to see what they get right…and what they get absolutely, ridiculously wrong. Most have been wrong…waaaaaaay wrong, but apparently I keep hoping I'll see a perfect reflection of reality and be moved to tears to see it (me?) in reverse.

    Thanks for posting your two bits on the movie!

  5. Maggie May September 29, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I want to see this now.

  6. dadshouse September 30, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    What a wonderful review. Thank you

  7. T September 30, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    I don't watch much TV at all so I don't know much about what movies are coming out. I have heard about this one a few times in the blogosphere. I had no idea what it was about.

    Thank you. It really was a great review. You sound like you've done this a few times!!

    Sorry to celebrate your anniversary alone. But smile, if you can. Those memories sound like they bring you much comfort.

  8. Abigail October 1, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Thank you all for your wonderful comments on the review. It was a first for me, so I am glad you all got something out of it.

    Anniversary was fine. Almost an ordinary day. It's now the quiet thoughts, rather than the outward displays of remembrance that seem to be the most meaningful.

  9. tomeoftheunknownblogger October 5, 2009 at 8:16 am

    Thanks for this review.

    Did you ever see "Dan in Real Life"? That was a pretty well done movie about a widower as well.

  10. Single Mom Seeking October 7, 2009 at 12:09 am

    I'm off to see the screening on Thursday. I really appreciate hearing your thoughts on the film. And I hope you're surrounded by much love right now.

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