About a Boy (2002)
Written by Nick Hornby, Peter Hedges, Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz
Directed by Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz
“Once you open your door to one person anyone can come in.” Will
1. Movies adapted from books are a tricky thing, and most often not something I end up enjoying, especially not when its an adaptation of a book I love. I go in with so much hope, and typically leave so very disappointed. About a Boy (and honestly, all adaptations of Nick Hornby I’ve seen) is a definite exception. Though there are a few minor details I wish they’d done more like the book (mostly just wishing the character of Ellie was more flushed out), overall I loved who they cast, how they paced the film, and how it brought one of my favorite books to life.
Even some of the smallest details, like Marcus and his mother closing their eyes tight while singing Killing Me Softly are in this. And the dynamics between Will and Marcus, Marcus and his mom, Will and Marcus’ mom, and later, Will and Rachel, are complex and in-color, and in many ways how I pictured them while reading (and in some ways more/different than I pictured, in a good way).
2. Music done well in movies means so much to me. The soundtrack to this is mostly filled with Badly Drawn Boy (Damon Gough) songs and they fit just so perfectly that now whenever I hear any songs by Badly Drawn Boy it is About a Boy I connect back to. There is something about his voice, the tinge of melancholy, the jadedness, and yet the sense of hope fits. It feels like post-modern folk tales set to song that weave in and out of the plot, and move the story along, sometimes informing the emotion in a scene.
I can’t think of a better choice for the music.
A Minor Incident :: Badly Drawn Boy
3. Fiona. Though the story really is about Will and Marcus, from the title, to the plotting, to the interactions and scenes, it is Fiona that I want to mention here. There are not a lot of representation of depression on-screen, and especially not in a way that doesn’t simplify it, or make it easily fixed, or tied up in the end. Fiona is one of those rare times when a character is shown in more than one dimension, and that one of the facets of her is depression. It isn’t solved, it isn’t given an easy “reason” to be there, it isn’t pretty or fixed at the end, but it isn’t all she is either.
The film doesn’t soften the impact depression has on others, either. You see the pain and fear it inflicts on Marcus, and what the consequences are. And Fiona, you see her struggle in such a real way, to be okay in herself, to be honest, to be a good mother, and to deal with with depression not always in a way that plays well on camera. I truly applaud the depiction of Fiona (and Toni Collete is just fantastic, as always).
4, Christmas/holiday movies can be tricky. Sometimes they fall into predictability and over the top cheesiness, and sometimes that’s just what you need – all sugar and happy ever after and greeting card sentiment. My favorite holiday films though tend to teeter on the balance beam of complicated emotions and a strive for happiness that we all seem to crave that time of year.
About a Boy may not overtly be categorized a “Christmas movie” but it does revolve around the holiday, twice in the film actually, and, well, Will has his lifestyle because of a Christmas song, so it is a plot point. I think what it does for me, and why it became one of my favorite holiday films, is that it shows how family doesn’t have to be what we are force fed to believe in via media and culture and societal “norms”, no, family can be unconventional, and be about who we choose to bring around us. That is something that has always been true in my adult life, too.
“no man is an island.”
5. Will and Marcus, of course, as well, are part of what I love about the movie. The awkwardness of both of them, the way they trip over themselves, albeit in different ways, and what they learn from each other is wonderful to watch. Every time I watch the film (or re-read the book, actually) I change my mind a bit on who helps the other more. I think in the end though, they both help each other to grow, to feel a part of something, to be less alone, and to embrace life and love in a new way.
“I was the star of the Will show, and the Will show wasn’t an ensemble drama.”
(though this trailer above makes it look so cheesy, and loses something about the movie that I love so much, so watch the trailer with that warning in mind)