For his role as a widower in "The Boys Are Back," Clive Owen was short-listed last year as a possible Oscar contender. As we saw last week, that didn't happen, but it remains a good performance, so for a well-executed, underseen drama, rent it on DVD.
Owen is Joe, an Australian sportswriter whose wife suddenly dies of cancer, leaving him to raise their 6-year-old son, Artie, alone. Being a journalist who travels a great deal, Joe barely knows how to parent, so he establishes as few rules as possible. Water-balloon fights inside the house? No problem! The arrival of Joe's teenage son from his first marriage "? whom he abandoned when that union soured "? promises to brighten things, but only temporarily.
Directed by Scott Hicks ("Shine"), the visuals are precious befitting a laundry detergent commercial, occasionally pushing the viewer toward manipulation. But the script remains fairly grounded, being based on a true story, so it never quite gets there. Oh, it still tugs at the heartstrings; the two women I watched it with cried throughout. Owen makes for a hugely sympathetic lead; I'm unsure whether it would've worked with someone else in the role. "?Rod Lott