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Posted October 1, 2010
DECEMBER BOYS is a fine little Australian film based on the novel by Michael Noonan (to whom the film is dedicated), adapted for the screen by Marc Rosenberg, and directed by Rod Hardy, and while the story takes place in the 1960s, it remains warmly contemporary in its message. And for once it presents the good side of orphanages, rather than the Dickens view. In the Australian outback there is an orphanage run by nuns, a spot in the dry country where the arid landscape flattens everything until an occasional storm provides temporary lakes for fishing and playing. Four young lads are bonded not only by the fact that they are orphans dues to various sad reasons, but they all have birthdays in December - Maps (Daniel Radcliffe), Misty (Lee Cormie, Sparks (Christian Byers), and Spit (James Fraser. Fearing for retribution for their smoking and other mild infractions at the orphanage they are called into the headmaster's office where they discover that a benefactor has decided to give the orphan boys a holiday each year. The four lads are to spend time with a family at a tiny ocean cove setting. Delighted, they are off to meet their family - Bandy (Jack Thompson) and his wife Skipper (Kris McQuade) - who live in a small shack beside a few other neighbors. The world seems to have opened to the boys and each finds first time joy in living - fishing from neighbor Shellback's (Ralph Cotterill) old boat, riding a motorcycle with neighbor Fearless (Sullivan Stapleton), spying on the nude bathing wife of Fearless, Theresa (Victoria Hill), and finding first love with the young, seductive Lucy (Teresa Palmer). The boys are in heaven until Misty overhears Fearless and Theresa bemoaning their childless marriage and plan to adopt on of the boys. Challenges occur in physical, emotional, and spiritual ways: who will be the chosen 'son'? The manner in which the answer is decided opens a whole new meaning to the concept of family. The cast is ingratiating and the settings and the music are lovely. The supporting cast of nuns and priest (Frank Gallacher, Judi Farr, Carmel Johnson) are particularly fine. The screenplay fails to fully investigate the motivations of all of the characters and there remain holes in the plot line that could have easily been remedied: symbolism in the form of a wild stallion, a huge fish named Henry, and surreal appearances of the Virgin Mary become a bit obscure. But despite these flaws (and an ending, or epilogue, that is pure corny Hollywood), DECEMBER BOYS is heartwarming and a fine movie for the entire family. Recommended. Grady Harp
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