“Boy,” an independent film from New Zealand, tells the story of a young Maori boy, Alamein nicknamed Boy, who lives on the East Coast of New Zealand. Boy has one true idol in his life: Michael Jackson. He lives with his grandmother with his cousins and younger brother Rocky as his mother passed away and his father is in jail. Everything was normal for Boy until his father came back into his life after being in jail.
The film does a great job at showing what Maori life is like in rural New Zealand. The mixture of Maori music and comical reenactments keep the film whimsical. It plays on the imagination of an adolescent growing up and the process of trying to impress an absent father. One example is when Boy sees his father dancing while drunk at a party and Boy imagines him dressed up as Michael Jackson. Another example is how his younger brother Rocky thinks he has super powers. The film ingeniously depicts this by showing animated drawings of what he is thinking. During one scene, Rocky has a school bus pass him as kids yell at him from the windows. Rocky puts out his hand and imagines the bus exploding.
The plot of the movie wasn’t as driven as I’d hope it to be. The story seemed to introduce plot lines but doesn’t take them anywhere. A large part of the film was the father and his gang members trying to dig up some “buried treasure” in a nearby pasture. Boy joins to help and spend more time with his father. The point of the hidden cash seemed to end abruptly and didn’t really explain what the father was going to use it for. At the end of the film, I didn’t really get a sense of resolution. It leaves the viewer with their own interpretation of how Boy’s, Rocky’s and their father’s stories would play out. I usually don’t like that sort of ending, especially so soon after a fight between Boy and his father.
One thing that I thought did a really good job was the character development of Boy. I really felt like reliving boyhood and trying to naively follow someone. One thing I didn’t like so much about the characters was at the beginning of the film, it introduced his whole family and then didn’t have them in the film very much. They always seemed to just sit around judging Boy for what he was doing.
Another thing Taika Waititi, the director, did really well was incorporating Maori culture into the film. It was in subtle ways, like mentioning his grandmother was away at a Tangi, or a funeral. Overall, the film introduced a unique look at boyhood through the eyes of a young Maori boy. It seemed realistic in showing a boy’s aspirations and imagination along with being disappointed in the person you thought was a good role model.