Taika Waititi, known for his work with fellow New Zealanders Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie on Flight of the Conchords, has returned with his sophomore feature, Boy. Succinctly titled, the story is emotionally complex--a juxtaposition against the simplicity of the title. Set at the height of Michael Jackson's popularity in 1984 (the year Thriller came out), Boy is one of the most non-trite coming of age tales to emerge from any country--New Zealand or otherwise--in a long time (or at least since Richard Ayoade released Submarine).
Nicknamed "Boy" (James Rolleston) of his own volition, Alamein (derived from his father who was named, presumably, after the town of El Alamein in Egypt), has a talent for embellishing scenarios with his vivid imagination. Those scenarios are also generally somehow centered around Michael Jackson. Considering the desperate and destitute existence he lives with his brother, Rocky (Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu), it is no small wonder that Boy has a tendency to make shit up. Especially to his pet goat, Leaf.
Although most of what he tells people is an overblown form of reality, one of the falsities he spouts actually comes true: His father, Alamein (Tahikia Waititi, looking more and more like Julian Barratt from The Mighty Boosh every day), really does get out of prison and comes back with two of his friends (a gang he calls The Crazy Horses)--though the motive for doing so is somewhat impure. What Alamein really comes back for (apart from the smokescreen of bonding with his sons) is a stash of money he buried; the only problem is, he can't remember exactly where on their vast property he buried it.
Boy, however, doesn't seem to notice any of his father's foibles until being first abandoned by him again and then publicly shamed by him when he returns. It is at this point that Rocky and Boy's sentiment toward Alamein shifts--Rocky, who initially expressed no interest in getting to know his father, now has a more vested concern in keeping him around. Boy's conflicting emotions about Alamein are compounded when he finds the money and stashes it away in a defunct car in front of the fence where Leaf is usually penned up. Since Boy doesn't find the money until after Alamein takes off, he conceals his discovery from anyone else--after spending a generous portion on popsicles for his friends.
When Alamein returns for the second time, he resorts to selling weed after Boy brings him a handful of it that he found among the plants in the field near their house. As Boy tries to be more like his father, he starts to stray away from his original group of friends, including Dynasty (Moerangi Tihore), who, upon learning of Boy's ties to the drug selling scene, cautions him not to become like the others as "they laugh at nothing at cry at everything."
In terms of Waititi's development as a director, Boy is a story that seems much more personal than his campy debut, Eagle vs. Shark. As one of the most prominent figures in the filmmaking industry in New Zealand, his attention to detail in portraying one of the most underrated countries is unmatched. The quirk of Flight of the Conchords is present, but there is an added blend of seriousness and kitsch. Obviously, that is the only description you really need to be sold on the goodness of this movie.