When I did my preview of Aussie films coming out this year, one that I shamefully missed out was Scott Hick's (Shine, Snow Falling on Cedars, No Reservations) latest, The Boys are Back starring Clive Owen.
The story concerns a journalist whose wife dies and he now has to take care of their son, and he also gets back in touch with a teenage son from a previous relationship. (A much better synopsis can be found over on the SBS website, which makes it clear Owen pays an ex-pat English journo - so we will be spared any attempts at an Aussie accent). The trailer sets it up as an absolute tear-jerker, but not in a schmaltzy PS I Love You kind of way, nor in a "oh my God they are all going to die of heroin overdoses after they have destroyed the lives of everyone around them and most likely killed a family member as well" kind of way that some Australian films in the past have tended to be. In fact the trailer provides a lot of smiles as well as tears.
It was filmed in South Australia, and I have to say as a someone who grew up in country SA, seeing the landscapes on film gives me a bit of a buzz - it is unmistakeably Australian, and even more unmistakeably South Australian (which is why we need to make films in this country - we need to see our places, our country). And ok, yes it stars Clive Owen, but to be honest I have never worried too much about bringing in a big name to do an Aussie film - so long as they are good and not a gimmick (like say Mick Jagger doing Ned Kelly). If we can be fine with Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett playing Robin Hood and Maid Marion then we need not be so precious about getting a foreign star to help out our films if it means more films made in Australia by Australians get seen by more people. (That said, the use of "root" in place of "cheer" in the preview does grate, and I wonder if that is just for the US audience, and the Australian print will use a more Australian term).
It was made with money from (among others) the old Film Finance Corporation, and US company Miramax are also involved, so you know the marketing will be done well. It is slated for a limited release in the US at the end of September, and for release here on 12 November.
It is also one of the 13 Australian films to be shown at September's Toronto International Film Festival. Among the other Aussie films there are Mao's Last Dancer, Balibo, Bright Star, Bran Nue Dae, My Year Without Sex, Beautiful Kate and Samson and Delilah. The TIFF (as it is known) is a major festival that pretty much starts the awards campaign season in North America. A lot of smaller independent films try to use it as a launch pad to not only getting a wider release in the US, but also to generating some Oscar buzz (this is certainly the case for Bright Star).
I don't know if The Boys are Back is Oscar material (though no doubt seeing Clive Owen do something a bit different to his standard roles of late may get some notice), but I have to say I really want to see it - something I have been saying more and more about Australian film this year than I have for a long while.
(oh and if you don't break out into a big smile at 1:43 of this trailer your heart is truly of stone!)