COMIC DRAMA; 1hr 27min

STARRING: James Rolleston, Taika Waititi, Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu

Battle front: from left, Eketone-Whitu, Rolleston and Waititi

Eleven-year-old Boy (Rolleston, a natural winner) has a dreamer’s forgiving nature and an optimist’s gift for spinning straw into gold. Boy lives in tumbledown style in coastal Waihau Bay, beautiful in that luxuriant New Zealand way, with his absent grandma (she’s off at a funeral), his kid brother Rocky (Eketone-Whitu) and a bunch of little cousins. The house is dead basic, kept afloat by a Maori sense of community despite the fact that Boy’s mother died young and his dad, Alamein (an exuberant writer-director Waititi, inspired by his childhood), is mostly missing in action. And when he does show up, fresh out of prison and brimful of blowhard plans, he’s just another, bigger kid.


Boy doesn’t mind: with a trick of his busy imagination, a boozily cavorting Alamein becomes his idol Michael Jackson, as he was in 1984 when the film is set. Boy idolises Alamein, as well, seeing him not as the failed misfit he is but as the cool customer that Alamein himself wants to be. It’s a love doomed to eventual disillusionment. But even when that moment comes, this boppy little one-off plays way more sweet than bitter.