Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Lee Cormie
Direction: Ron Hardy
Rating: * *
Here’s a rare instance of an Australian movie making it to our multiplexes. So far, so wow. The trouble is that this intimately scaled drama leaves us with mixed feelings. At best, it is slightly more engrossing than quite a few of the recent Hollywood assembly-line products.
Adapted from the classic 1963 novel by Michael Noonan, December Boys, the screenplay is recounted in the form of flashbacks by the youngest of four adolescent orphans.
Cut back then to a seaside summer holiday in the early 1960s. The friendship of the four parentless boys, who all share the same birth month, is severely tested when they vie for the affection of potential parents. It’s apparent that as they grow older, their turn for adoption may never come.
Meanwhile, the eldest boy (Radcliffe, quite bland in his first non-Harry Potter role) is attracted to a beautiful girl (Teresa Palmer). And more than predictably, their brief encounter leads to a bittersweet resolution.
Throughout the direction by the Ozzie veteran Hardy (Thirst) is superficially slick. A patchwork of sub-plots, including one revolving around an eccentric old fisherman, merely impedes the narrative momentum.
Worse, attempts to inject a dose of magic realism into the proceedings. The recurring shots of a stallion on the beach and the boy’s religious epiphanies are particularly embarrassing. The retro pop-rock soundtrack is rousing, though.
Apart from Lee Cormie as the bespectacled little orphan, none of the other performers make an impact. See this old-fashioned coming-of-age flick, only in the case of no alternative.