BOYS, THE: Feature
Like the sound of a sustained cello, The Boys is a darkly riveting film that haunts you
into the night. Who and why was it made? ANDREW L. URBAN reports.
"When Robert Connolly and I first discussed adapting the stage play," says
director Rowan Woods, "I remember asking myself the question: what could be in this?
Where is the insight into the humanity of the boys and humanity in general, in a piece
"a gripping psychological study of a family in
Woods was struck by the structure of the play and the simplicity of its landscape of
characters. "It was the perfect foundation for a gripping psychological study of a
family in crisis – manipulated by the eldest son who is both loved and feared."
Other than with a handful of films like Romper Stomper, Metal Skin or Blackrock,
Australian filmmakers have not been drawn to the dark side of life in Australia’s
communities, the areas from which come the crimes that hit the papers.
To its credit, The Boys is more interested in the exploration of the mindset of its
three central characters, than in showing us a bashing and a rape. Sewell’s script,
structured (like the play) with sparsely used flash forwards that jump further and further
ahead in time, carries us through the flimsy walls of the Sprague house into the lives of
this ill-fated family, with its broken marriage, disgruntled and aimless sons, the
pathetic pregnant girlfriend and its ticking time bomb of a young man whose personality
and circumstances have combined to turn him into an anti-social, anti-pathetic,
anti-sensitive packet of dysfunction. David Wenham gives a sensational performance as
Brett the brat, matched by the entire cast for intensity, complexity and credibility.
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On his return home after a year in jail,
Brett Sprague (David Wenham), one of three brothers, discovers things have changed and his
insecurities build. Brett’s girlfriend, Michelle (Toni Collette) resents the way
Brett has changed. His brothers, Glenn (John Polson) and Stevie (Anthony Hayes) are
restless and boozing; Stevie’s pregnant girlfriend (Anna Lise) is a nuisance, hanging
around. Chaos reigns in the Sprague home as their mother, Sandra (Lynette Curran), makes a
stand against her sons' behaviour. George (Pete Smith), Sandra’s current lover, steps
between Sandra and Brett at the height of a drunken rage and is flattened by Brett. Sandra
orders her sons out of the house. Rejected by their respective girlfriends and their
mother, the Sprague boys are united in a futile rage against the lot of them. Brett leads
his brothers off into the night. Wound through the story is the aftermath of that night in
the form of flash-forwards.
Following its premiere in Competition at
Berlin this year (1998), The Boys went to Cannes; it is the debut feature for director
Rowan Woods, who has been making short dramas for a decade. Woods was surrounded by a crew
also making their first feature – but had worked with him on the hundreds of shorts
Woods had made.
Produced by John Maynard (Vigil, The
Navigator, Sweetie), The Boys is a drama based on a highly successful stage play, which
won several awards. The producer of the play, Robert Connolly, is also a producer of the
film, and sees the basic story as a response to a series of crimes involving women plucked
from the street.