‘Boy’ is Taika Waititi’s best film 

Director Taika Waititi attends the premiere of “Next Goal Wins,” at the Princess of Wales Theatre during the Toronto International Film Festival, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, in Toronto. His second film, “Boy”, is arguably his best film yet. Photo by Joel C. Ryan/Invision/AP

Taika Waititi has created eight films, all of which have been very successful due to his ability to create a balance between comedy and emotions. “Boy,” his second film, is his best movie yet. While less comedic than his other films, “Boy” is much more personal. The cinematography shines, and the story, although more simplistic in nature compared to his other films, is beautiful. The film is very personal, enabling viewers to connect with it even more; it is influenced by Waititi’s own life, being filmed in his house, his school and his town. There’s something special about being able to capture your childhood and share the beauty of the place where you grew up. The personalized nature of this film produces some gorgeous scenes that play over top of music that perfectly matches, creating a sense of comfort. There aren’t too many movies that make you feel the way this one does; it’s nostalgic, relatable and homey, even for someone raised with snow of New England rather than the coastlines of New Zealand.  

Throughout the movie, Boy is searching for the meaning of the word potential, which he’s told he has, like his dad, Alamein. Boy hasn’t seen his father since the birth of his younger brother, Rocky, whom his mother died giving birth to. Boy tells Rocky about their parents, talking about how great their dad is and all the amazing things he can do, including that he’s a master carver and can dance as well as Michael Jackson. In reality, his dad has the potential for these things; he used to carve and loved Jackson, but he chose not to pursue these interests. We are introduced to his dad through Boy’s childlike perspective, as Boy makes up stories about his dad because he’s never met him. This is different from his mother, however;  he only tells Rocky what he knows based on his memories of her. 

We later learn that, in reality, Boy has no true memories of his dad.. Just about everything Boy thought about his dad was made up or inaccurate, and the viewer goes through this revelation along with Boy, as we know as much about Alamein as Boy does. Alamein wasn’t there when Boy’s mum died and hasn’t been around since. Heis only present during the movie because he needs money, and he shows little interest in his sons, who are desperate to connect to him. We see Boy change himself in order to spend time with his dad; he stops taking care of his brother and younger cousins, stops hanging out with his friends, dresses differently and starts drinking and smoking. He does all of this to be more like his dad because he craves that connection. It’s heartbreaking to see, but what’s more heartbreaking is Boy realizing that his dad is not at all who he thought he was. He had believed his dad was there with him and his mum and when she died, and when he realizes he wasn’t, Boy is crushed. He loses all faith and hope for his dad: the man he idolized. The scene where Boy realizes this is one of my favorite scenes as its production is so well executed. You really feel what Boy is feeling, as the viewers, just like Boy, didn’t know that Alamein wasn’t really there. This dramatic scene is handled gently; the music isn’t fast and anxious or slow and depressing. Instead, it’s quiet and pensive.    

Eventually, Boy stands up to his dad about his lack of presence in his own and his brother’s lives. He and his friends leave, taking Alamein’s car and weed with them, but Alamein realizes how much he messed up. We don’t see him after Boy slaps him, and the next day, Boy and Rocky assume he’s left again. They go to hangout with their friends and Boy tries to make amends with his friend that he wronged while trying to emulate his dad. They then go to their mother’s grave, where they find Alamein sitting alone. This is the heartwarming ending that makes the viewer feel like it’ll all be okay, because for the first time, the family is united. Alamein has realized his wrongdoings and is ready to start over. He’s changing for the better, as this is the first time he has visited his wife’s grave, showing that he’s ready to start dealing with her death and being a dad. We also know that Alamein truly loved Joanie, and her death profoundly impacted him, especially considering how young he was and how long they were together. He isn’t dating anyone new and it’s assumed he wasn’t dating anyone else seriously his whole life as he tells Boy that even when he and Joanie were kids he knew she was the one. He still feels like she was the only one for him and he feels all alone. 

What Waititi masters is providing unsaid depth to each character. We’re thrown into the quiet lives of Boy and his family and we watch and hope for the best for them. The characters aren’t explained to us, but they don’t need to be because we can connect them to figures in our own lives. By the end, they all have potential, as everyone does, and they’re on the right path. It’s a very hopeful ending about change, growth and love. More than anything, this film captures the feelings of childhood, which isn’t easy, and you’re left with a mellow, nostalgic and warm feeling that makes you appreciate life. I find Waititi manages to capture this feeling in many of his films, but this one stands out in an already unique filmography. 

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