A few days back I got my hands on the DVD of December boys and the tagline on it caught my eyes, which says “After that summer nothing would ever be the same again.” I bought this DVD and copied it on my computer and then forgot about it but yesterday I watched this movie. And I will say that this movie is a perfect blend of human relationships and friendship. "December Boys" is a refreshingly gentle treatment of familiar themes such as the inevitability of change, the dashing of youthful illusions and mutability of family. Enhanced by an exotic locale, the movie overcomes a well-trodden narrative path and unflinchingly brandishes its sentimentality as it stakes out its crowd-pleasing territory.
Plot: In the late 1960’s, four close-knit orphans Maps (Daniel Radcliffe), Misty (Lee Cormie), Spit (James Fraser), and Spark (Christian Byers) in Australia, called the December Boys because they were all born in the same month.
As the film begins, all four are once again passed over by an adoptive couple--and disappointed once again in their collective dream of leaving the place and becoming part of a real family. But fate steps in, as the foursome gets the life-altering chance to go for Christmas vacation to visit an elderly couple that lives by a gorgeous cove on the sea.
Having all but given up hope of ever being adopted, the friends are on a seaside holiday one summer when they hear a rumor that a seaside couple is looking to adopt one of the orphans, friendships are tested and new alliances made as the four boys compete for the chance to gain a real family. By the time the holiday is over, all four have had an unforgettable life experience that will shape the rest of their days.
Daniel Radcliffe branches out from his iconic role as Harry Potter with this terrific performance as Maps, the eldest of the four orphan boys. As a slightly hardened teen who secretly longs for love and stability, this character is very different from Harry (despite the orphan thread that links the two together), and Radcliffe inhabits him completely. "What’s the big deal about having parents anyway?" Maps retorts to his summer fling Lucy (Teresa Palmer) and this shows his feeling of not having parents. He may not have much dialog, but the sensitivity of his character comes across beautifully.
The other three boys also give natural, believable performances, especially Lee Cormie, who is the film’s narrator and central character Misty. His portrayal of that bespectacled, artistic, smaller-than-the-others Misty is nuanced and brave, quite the accomplishment for a kid who has only just turned fifteen.
Spit (James Fraser) and Spark (Christian Byers), the middle boys, are adventurous types prone to sneaking smokes and perusing lingerie ads in magazines.
The rest of the gifted cast--including iconic Aussie actor Jack Thompson, of classics like Breaker Morant and The Man from Snowy River--all add to the overall quality of this well- acted telling of an emotional, but never sappy, story of adolescent longing and coming of age.
Direction: A sweet end-of-summer respite from Down Under, "December Boys" is a nostalgia-driven coming-of-age drama about four Catholic orphans from the outback given a seaside reprieve from the nuns and heat.
Australian Rod Hardy use all that experience to make a film that speaks to the emotions of childhood which resonates into adult experience. Using the incredible landscapes of Oz as a key element of the story, Hardy creates a visual cornucopia that parallels the emotional journey the four orphans take through the course of the film. His adept handling of many of the most universal life passages--first kiss, loss of parents, love/hate of siblings, dealing with the death of a loved one--bring a strong realism to the story adapted from a novel by Michael Noonan.
The landscape of Kangaroo Island adds vast scale to this relatively small movie, opening our eyes to natural geographical wonders, becoming a character in itself, with its inhabitants mere players on its grounds.
Female figures of maternal and erotic desire slowly rise from the gorgeous sea like goddesses, black stallions stomp about the water’s edge looking to catch fish for a cat, a crotchety sailor waxes rhapsodic about a legendary fish of immense size, and the woman caring for the boys, Skipper (Kris McQuade), soon finds herself debilitated by cancer. Life and death, reality and myth, all swirl about in the golden sunlight, as do gratingly cutesy daydreaming sequences in which Misty imagines the orphanage’s nuns congratulating him on finding new parents with energetic cartwheels.
My Verdict: Unfulfilled expectations are shared by all characters regardless of age and situation, and this is the main theme that the audience empathizes with. It is heartbreaking to see their faces light up with hope at the possibility of winning the parent lottery only to be passed on time and time again. Rude awakenings and rejection are themes that most people can relate to after hardened years, but for children to already know it intimately at such an age is what makes December Boys the thoughtful tearjerker it is. I will give this movie 4 and ½ star out of 5.