The Boys Are Back parents guide

The Boys Are Back Parent Review

"The Boys Are Back" is a poignant look at the pitfalls and pinnacles of parenting -- even in the face of personal heartbreak.

Overall B

Joe Warr (Clive Owen) is a capable sports writer, but not quite as competent as a father. This he learns after a tragedy turns him into a single parent. Responsible for two sons, one an impressionable six-year-old (Nicholas McNulty) and the other a headstrong teen (George MacKay), Joe attempts to rear his offspring the best way he knows how -- even if his methods are a bit unusual.

Violence B-
Sexual Content B-
Profanity C
Substance Use C

The Boys Are Back is rated PG-13 for some sexual language and thematic elements.

Movie Review

Parenting is never easy but for former athlete and sportswriter Joe Warr (Clive Owen), it is overwhelming. Following the sudden death of his wife Katy (Laura Fraser), the ambitious newspaperman, who spent most of his time away at sporting events, finds himself stuck at home with his six-year-old son that he barely knows. Drowning in his own incomprehensible grief, he packs their bags and heads out on an extended road trip with Artie (Nicholas McNulty).

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But his usual tactic of handing out treats and gifts does little to help him connect with the confused and tired child who spends day after day strapped in the back seat of their car.

Finally back at home, Joe is dealt another surprise when his teenaged son from a previous marriage shows up on the scene as well. Trying to fit the reserved and morose Harry (George MacKay) into their already unbalanced household proves to be more difficult than Joe anticipated.

Lacking the structure and calm that was orchestrated by Katy, Joe takes an unconventional approach to nurturing his two offspring. The list of rules is very short and even then is often challenged. Instead his pat answer to almost every request becomes "yes". Pushing what might be seen as the limits of responsible childrearing, he lets his boys engage in activities that many in their community consider reckless and risky. He also dismisses the cautions issued by his mother-in-law and a female friend (Emma Booth).

However as the dirty dishes and unwashed laundry pile up, the laid-back lifestyle causes a different kind of stress for the widower, and Joe finds himself both floundering at work and increasingly turning to alcohol for comfort.

Single mothers are a common theme in films but unfortunately dads are usually depicted as duds—incapable, fumbling or foolish. While Joe certainly has his moments of incompetence, the portrayal of this brokenhearted father is tender and touching, especially as he realizes that his successes on the sporting field and in his career don’t automatically make him an outstanding man of the house. Groping to find his way through this new and frightening scenario, he often errs on the side of leniency and even lunacy. Yet his effort to build a family from the fragments of their lives is a worthwhile endeavor.

Set in the rustic Australian outback and based on the real life experiences of columnist Simon Carr, The Boys Are Back is a poignant look at the pitfalls and pinnacles of parenting—even in the face of personal heartbreak.

Starring Scott Hicks, Clive Owen, Nicholas McNulty, George MacKay. Running time: 104 minutes. Theatrical release October 9, 2009. Updated

Get details on profanity, sex and violence in The Boys Are Back here.

The Boys Are Back Parents Guide

Why is it difficult for Joe to explain death to his son? How does Joe deal with his grief in comparison to Artie? What other things do characters mourn in this film besides the death of a loved one?

Who is impacted by infidelity and divorce in this story? Is there any way for adults to lessen the effects of broken families?

Why is it important for children to have some structure in their lives? What kind of family rules do you have? How are they similar or different from those of other families?