Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
Honour your father and mother
for this is the first commandment with a promise:
eso that it may be well with you and you may live long
on the earth.f And, fathers, do not provoke your children
to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction
of the Lord.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Director Taika Waititi’s film is an inventive coming of age tale set in a Maori Village in Waihau Bay, New Zealand during 1984. 11-year-old Boy (James Rolleston), an ardent Michael Jackson fan lives with his grandmother, his younger brother Rocky (Te Aho Eketone-Whitu), several little cousins, and the goat, the latter being their source of milk for the impoverished family.
Their father Alamein (played by the director) was imprisoned a little before Rocky was born, and their mother died shortly thereafter. Thus Boy often has had to watch over Rocky and their cousins, as is the case now when Gran is away for a week or so attending a funeral at the other end of the island. Despite his family responsibilities, Boy spends a lot of time with friends, sometimes making a fool of himself when he tries to impress a girl with his poor imitation of Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk. Rocky fantasizes that he has superhero powers to make things happen—and when he tries them out, sometimes the person slips or trips so that the lad is convinced that he does.
Boy has nourished his dreams of his father being a hero (a deep sea diver, a soldier, and a relative of Michael Jackson’s!), so he is very happy when Alamein drives up with two doltish friends who fancy that they form a tough gang. Although Dad does play with the kids (indeed, he seems more of a kid than boy at times), he spends most of his time smoking pot and digging with his friends holes in a nearby field. It seems that he has buried a sack of money before the police had caught up with him, but he can’t remember the spot.
The film is enhanced by some funny drawings by Rocky that come to life, expressing his thoughts or commenting on a character or the action. How Boy comes to terms with the father of his dreams and the reality of the loser who sometimes abuses him is both funny and poignant at times. The fate of the money is especially a delight. The film shows the Americanization of other cultures, but not in a judgmental way so much as suggesting that no national or cultural boundary is impervious in today’s world. (Alamein himself is taken by the title of the novel Shogun.) Best of all, the film demonstrates the resiliency and imagination of children, helping them to survive when reality fails to live up to their dreams.
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