The Boys Are Back

As I reflect on what would have been my 19th wedding anniversary, I continue to wonder, What if? Of course it's impossible to imagine and yet, I still can in a way. Tonight we might have sat in a quiet restaurant somewhere nibbling sushi, or maybe we would now share in our kid's new foodie delights. Whatever, it would have been a quiet affair.

I had a taste last night of what Arron's life might have been like if the tables had been turned, had been me in the Trade Center that day. I was invited to a special viewing of the movie The Boys Are Back with (yum) Clive Owen. Its about a father who loses his wife to cancer and is left to raise their 6-year old son and eventually his 15 (or so)-year old son from a previous marriage. Cinematically (quite possibly a new word made up for my debut as a movie reviewer) it was beautiful. Set in the rolling wine country of Australia with painterly views of ocean slashed with undulating grasslands and meticulous rows of vines, the views created a mood in keeping with the subject matter. Nature charging forth in its never-ending cycles.

The various universalities of widow-dom (where are all these new words coming from?) were well represented: the anger, the drinking, the lack of housework, the comatose/angry kids, the wild abandon of routine, the doubting mother-in-law, the almost-love interest, the stressful job. My only gripe was that all this was displayed during a few short weeks of the father's grief process. But that's movies for you.

I was astounded at the young boy's (Artie) ability to show the range of emotion required for the role. He managed to capture the 6 year old's desire to pretend nothing was wrong, and then show great insight, extreme, irrational anger, finally falling apart completely by lying in a catatonic state on the floor.

Oddly, the storyline that touched me more, was that of the older son, Harry who had essentially been abandoned by his father (at the same age as Artie). It was touching to watch him deal with the loss of his parent, as though his loss was fresh. He harboured the same anger as Artie, and they seemed to bond by virtue of having lost a parent at a young age.

Of course the movie ends on a relatively happy note, presumably within the same year of the wife's death, which any bereaved parent knows is a little far-fetched, but I was happy to see a film that dealt with loss head on, and handled it with the delicacy and intricacy that loss seems to warrant.

I had stuffed my purse with tissues for this one, but surprisingly didn't use them. The film was infused with humour, mostly at the hands of young Artie, but also in the sheer abandon that Clive Owen's character learns to offset the difficult moments. It may be that I am hardened to watching others undertake their own losses, or because the main character was a man and thus was slightly removed from my own experience, but I was glad that somehow the movie was more poignant and humourous than outright sad.

I never thought I would find pleasure at a movie about loss, but strangely its good to be reminded once in a while that we are not alone. And maybe not even crazy.