out of Five stars
Running time: 105
Watchable, nostalgia-tinged drama with strong performances from its four leads, though it's not as emotionally engaging as it should have been.
What's it all about?
Set in Australia in the 1960s, December Boys stars Daniel Radcliffe as Maps, the oldest of a group of four orphan boys born in December. When the boys are given a holiday to the coast as a reward, the younger ones - Misty (Lee Cormie), Spark (Christian Byers) and Spit (James Fraser) – decide to try and get themselves adopted by a kindly young childless couple (Sullivan Stapleton and Victoria Hill) they meet on the beach.
Meanwhile, Maps is more preoccupied with local teen temptress Lucy (Teresa Palmer), who he meets while exploring hidden caves (symbolism entirely intentional – it's that kind of film).
The film is beautifully shot and director Rod Hardy really engages with the landscape, making full use of his gorgeous coastal scenery. Radcliffe does enough as Maps to banish the ghost of Harry Potter and there's strong support from the three boys, while Teresa Palmer's sultry performance suggests we may have another Abbie Cornish (Somersault) on our hands.
The main problem is that the story just isn't as emotionally engaging as it should have been. You'd think that with four cute orphans, a childless couple, the pangs of first love and an incurable illness thrown into the mix that the resulting film would be a veritable blubfest, but the script never quite manages to pull all the elements together and the finale is extremely weak as a result.
The script also fails to properly integrate its various subplots. For example, the boys' quest to catch a legendary giant fish seems rather pointless, and the fish is horribly fake-looking to boot.
In short, this is never less than watchable and worth seeing for a potential starlet-in-the-making performance from Teresa Palmer but it fails to deliver on the emotional front.
December Boys (12A)