Boy ★★★½

Taika Waititi's "Boy" is a light-toned drama about separating the fantasies of childhood from the less fantastic realities discovered while getting older. Involving, funny, and solidly built, the film is a spry combination of sturdy storytelling and impactful, never-forced emotions.

The Waititi-directed and written "Boy" focuses on a young man growing up in a small New Zealand enclave. Raised by his grandmother and raising a brood of siblings and cousins, Boy, as he is called, narrates his way through crushes, school-room fights, and a minor obsession with Michael Jackson. When Boy's estranged father returns from an extended absence, lives are shaken and peace is broken.

The narrative is easily compelling, boasting a balanced tone that combines humor and a recognizably weighty dynamic. Waititi's unwavering and almost literary focus on his protagonist allows for an engaging blend of emotions. Boy's struggles are universal, though the clear-eyed New Zealand lanscapes and the texture provided by the film's other characters add distinctive layers.

Waititi and company build a film that is both universal and fresh. With its well-placed cast and steady emotional beats, the drama produces lively sequences and nostalgic notes. It is a appealingly assembled and memorably told piece of work.

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