Movie Review: December Boys
December Boys is a film that was released in 2007, and stars Daniel Radcliffe (of Harry Potter fame), Lee Cormie, Christian Byers, James Fraser, Jack Thompson, Teresa Palmer, Sullivan Stapleton and Victoria Hall. Being a Harry Potter fanatic and curious about where Daniel Radcliffe's career will take him, my interest was piqued when I found this movie at the library.
Synopsis of the plot
Set in the 1960s in Australia, the film is about four young orphans - Misty, Maps, Spit and Sparks - who have grown up together and formed a bond that makes them as close as brothers. When the orphanage sends them on a seaside trip to Lady Star Cove, things change for the December boys, so named because they share the same birth month.
When the boys discover there's a possibility that one of them might be adopted, their friendship is tested as they begin to compete with each other in the hopes of being chosen. Only Maps, the oldest, played by Radcliffe, doesn't see the need to compete in this parent lottery - "what's the big deal about having parents anyway?" he says at one point. For him, the only family he needs is the three younger boys that he cares for so much and tries hard to watch over.
What I thought of December Boys
This touching, heartwarming and somewhat bittersweet movie left me quite satisfied. The boys all have their own difficult and painful lessons to learn about growing up. The themes of disappointment, heartache, and rejection are relatable for most people, as is the pain often associated with growing up and learning that life isn't always easy or fair. There's also a lot of emphasis on the bonds of close friendships, and the lesson that family doesn't always mean shared DNA, something that it takes many of us years to learn, but that this foursome learned at a young age.
As pre-teens and teens, the boys have reconciled themselves to the fact that they might never be adopted, so they become a family unit of their own. When the possibility of adoption arises, it's such an unexpected occurrence that the rivalry and competition between them ranges from comical to destructive. They know that only one can be chosen, and they're aware that it would split them up, but that it would also give one of them a chance to live the life they've always dreamed of - a life with parents and a 'real' family.
What I thought of Daniel Radcliffe's performance
For my fellow Potter fans, and since it was Daniel's appearance in this movie that originally caught my interest, I thought I'd focus a bit on his performance in the movie. For starters, I don't think there's any worry of his career going stagnant after the huge success of Harry Potter. I never thought I'd want to see Daniel Radcliffe in a role other than Harry Potter because I thought that for me he'd always be Harry. Then I realized that because Daniel's so young and has such a promising career ahead of him, it wouldn't be fair to always see him in the one role, and it would be ridiculous to limit myself. I know other people who felt the same way, or thought that after the Potter movies, it would be impossible for Radcliffe to move past that, but I think December Boys - despite being filmed in 2007, when he was still working on Harry Potter - is a good role for Daniel to distance himself from the iconic role. I think that he had to play a completely different role, one that couldn't possibly be compared to Harry, otherwise he'd be typecasted the rest of his career. Maps is about as different from Harry as you can get - the only similarities are the fact that they're both orphans, and the traits that make them loyal, faithful and true friends.
All that being said, I do think Daniel has some work to do before he becomes a truly excellent actor. He has a lot of emotion in his voice and in his movements and actions, but not much expression in his face. It's like he knows what he's doing and he has the tools to do it, he's just not quite there yet. Despite that, at least to me, he still comes off convincing and believable. I don't really know how to explain it, but for me at least, I always found myself able to relate to him as Harry, and I found him very relatable in December Boys as well.
I would recommend this beautiful movie to anyone who enjoys coming-of-age stories, and movies that leave you thinking about the themes of love, friendship, and lost innocence. If you're curious about Daniel Radcliffe, as I was, I'd just warn that this movie isn't for the young Potter fans - it's rated PG-13 for sexual content, nudity and underage smoking and drinking.
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