Maori Michael Jackson Fan Pines for Father in Bittersweet Baby-Daddy Drama
Dateline: New Zealand, 1984. A Maori village on Waihau Bay which is where we meet an 11 year-old orphan nicknamed Boy (James Rolleston). There, he and his brother Rocky (Te Aho Aho Ekotone-Whitu) are both being raised in humble circumstances by their beleaguered grandma, Nan (Mavis Paenga), along with a bunch of other deserted cousins.
Sounds a lot like inner-city slums, huh? Boy spends hours a day drawing at the grave of his mother, who passed away while giving birth to Rocky. Besides that, he copes by obsessing on Michael Jackson whose Thriller album is currently giving hope to lots of ragamuffins living in the region.
Boy also prays for the return of the deadbeat-dad (Taika Waititi) he barely remembers but has nevertheless placed on a pedestal, by alternately fantasizing that his father is a war hero, a deep sea diver or a friend of his one-gloved idol, Michael. That dream of a reunion becomes a reality shortly after sperm donor Alamein shows up for the first time in seven years.
Truth be told, the Prodigal outlaw is back in town not to bond with his boys but to dig up some ill-gotten gains he’d buried before splitting. How will Boy handle this revelation? Will Alamein finally feel a few pangs of parental responsibility?
Those are some of the central questions explored by Boy, a bittersweet baby-daddy drama written, directed and co-starring Oscar-nominee Taika Waititi (for Two Cars, One Night). The cautionary tale proves to be quite a charmer, primarily due to the abandon exhibited by the carefree, unschooled adolescent actors innocently cavorting across the screen.
Anthropologically speaking, Boy essentially amounts to a sobering meditation on the erosion of family values among aborigines halfway around the planet. Specifically, the picture depicts fatherhood’s falling out of favor in the case of a wannabe more inclined to keep it real by behaving like a macho ghetto gangsta.
Cinematically speaking, think Whale Rider meets Superfly, except mama’s dead instead of Freddy.
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 87 minutes
Distributor: Paladin/Unison Films