Daniel Radcliffe moves past Harry Potter for this Aussie coming-of-ager

December Boys

on September 14, 2007 by Wade Major
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Director Ron Hardy's heartfelt, if somewhat tepid, adaptation of Michael Noonan's coming-of-age novel harks back to the days of the Australian New Wave, when films about isolation, loneliness and the existential dilemmas of life on an island continent captured the imagination of the world. That's not to suggest that this is in any way a comparable work, but it's competent and effective enough that fans of those earlier classics are likely to find themselves drawn in by the shadowy overlap.

At a Catholic orphanage in the 1960s, four boys ( Harry Potter 's Daniel Radcliffe, Lee Cormie, Christian Byers and James Fraser) find themselves fast approaching the age when they will no longer be of interest to prospective parents. It's a painful realization that creates both anxiety and some degree of friction, leading to a well-deserved holiday at the seaside. While there, however, new relationships and encounters raise fresh concerns and risk putting their longstanding friendships to the ultimate test.

There's much to like in this sensitive, moody depiction of turbulent teenage emotions—Cormie, Byers and Fraser are uniformly excellent while the equally fine Radcliffe all but erases any memory of his Harry Potter self. Marc Rosenberg's otherwise literate adaptation is prone to meandering but rights itself when necessary to make the needed emotional statements. It's Hardy, however, who holds the disparate elements together, keeping sentiment at bay while giving a unique visual voice to the book's restrained and seemingly unfilmable emotional subtext.

December Boys is by no means the best Australian film of this or any other year, but its flashes of greatness are formidable and frequent enough to earn high marks in all departments.
Distributor: Warner Independent
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Lee Cormie, Christian Byers and James Fraser
Director: Rod Hardy
Screenwriter: Marc Rosenberg
Producer: Richard Becker
Genre: Drama
Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, nudity, underage drinking and smoking
Running time: 105 min.
Release date: September 14, 2007 NY/LA, September 28 exp.
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