Clive Owen seemed born to play James Bond.
So when the role went to Daniel Craig instead, Owen responded by snaring roles that didn’t require stunt doubles and an endless parade of martinis.
The rugged actor showed us his inner grit (”Children of Men”) and ability to parry with an Oscar-winning temptress (”Duplicity”).
“The Boys Are Back,” out on DVD Jan. 26, reveals a new dimension to Owen, the ability to transform a tear-jerker into a film of consequence.
Owen plays Joe Warr, a sports writer whose perfect marriage dissolves when he learns his wife is battling cancer.
The fight is brief - and one-sided - leaving Joe as the sole caretaker of their rambunctious six-year-old son, Artie (Nicholas McAnulty).
Joe doesn’t know what to do, so he decides the less parental instruction he provides, the better. And when the chance to take in a son (George MacKay) from a previous marriage arises, Joe sticks closely to his parental template.
“Back,” based on true events, begins with harrowing sequences of a family shattered by cancer. Director Scott Hicks (”Shine”) teeters on the edge of overdose here, but the sequences give structure for what comes next.
Joe isn’t arrogant, or clueless, or mean spirited in any way. He’s just lost. Owen captures that sense of bewilderment beautifully without heavy sighs or other mawkish tics.
Press surrounding the movie played up the “Lord of the Flies” parenting style, but the film doesn’t focus on such potentially histrionic moments to power the narrative.
The story does leans too heavily on one particular scene of parental neglect, something a sharper screenplay would have written around. But Owen’s sturdy performance, and the natural work provided by both MacKay and McAnulty, barrel past such transgressions.
The DVD extras include “The Boys Are Back: A Photographic Journey” by director Scott Hicks and “A Father and Two Sons, On Set” featuring Simon Carr, the father whose memoir inspired the story.
Christian Toto is a veteran journalist and film critic whose work appears in The Denver Post, The Washington Times and PajamasMedia.com. He blogs on film at What Would Toto Watch?
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