About a Boy
(Edited highlights of the panel's review)
Tom Paulin, it is an odd plot, this
middle-aged man who preys on
single mothers and befriends an
11-year-old. Can you make a
romantic comedy out of that?
I think you can. The treatment of the
single mothers is disgraceful, made
into menagerie. It is an essay film,
no man is an island, the done line
is run through it. Male emotional
literacy as in Four Weddings and a
Funeral. Male fear of emotion and
anxiety. That all runs in it. It is
well acted, largely, I think. Hugh
Grant with the crop hair style,
which I like, is trying to push his
acting abilities a bit further, I
think. I'm not sure that he entirely
succeeds in that. But it is interesting
to watch him try.
I like the single mothers thing. It is
like Mike Leigh.
It jarred, the support group.
It did. But one of the
strengths of the film is that you
take this, the original Hugh Grant
view, at the beginning of the film,
very detached, cynical and he does
this speaking over, speaking his
thoughts over previous dialogue.
That is very cynical. With the
single mothers group, it personifies
that side of it, in that you first see
them as this awful kind of nightly
gaggle of ugly women, basically.
But then they get warmer and
suddenly the mother of the boy
becomes rather sympathetic.
She does, yes.
The film moves from seeing
them as cynical, unpleasant
people, you wouldn't want to be
in a room with, that you warm
Well, now. Ahem! I doubt very
much that Hugh Grant can get very
much older. Boyishness is all he
has. It was getting creaky here.
The side-long glances, the being cute,
none of that really worked. He is
befriended by a child with the
worst hair cut. If anybody had any
human warmth they should have
done something about it.
But that is the point.
Yes, I know. All Hugh Grant does
for him is buy him a pair of
trainers then they get stolen and
then I seem to notice they're not
replaced. It is a very peculiar film.
The idea is that any man, even one
as empty-headed and useless as the
character played by Hugh Grant
will understand a boy child better
than his mother. He can be a great
father just out of instinct, because
he knows what the kid wants.
It says in the film he remembers his
own childhood. He hasn't grown
Your childhood is not another
If you are in touch with your
childhood then you can
communicate with children I
Not the innerchild, all that
Obviously these women are
not in touch with their
Your mother entirely understood
No, no. That is a really crappy ploy. No!
Stick with the film for the minute.
I thought the film...
You were saying it was inconceivable
that a man could understand a boy
better than his own mother.
No, I didn't say that. Hang on just a
minute! He doesn't want to relate to
the child. He is dealing with the
child in his spare time with spare
mental energy. Yet his instincts
regarding the child are correct.
Whereas practically all the
women's instincts regarding their
children. Every woman has
It was a fiction, one mother, one son,
one man. It wasn't political.
No, no. Remember, the other
son who is so screwed up, Ali, the
kid who does the breakdancing in
the concert? It is a superficially
beguiling film, empty and
It is very funny, also.
It is not funny.
Everyone was laughing in the
Tom didn't think it was funny.
It doesn't have a viewpoint,
which is the thing that I think
is wrong with it. There is
a key scene at the end
where they sing a song
at a concert. It is never clear
whether it is supposed to be
I had seen A Beautiful Mind
last week which ends with
everyone applauding him.
I thought it was a contradiction
of the Hollywood premise that
everyone applauds you.
It shows life as complex,
very embarrassing, a small
triumph. I thought it was rather
interesting. A mainstream film to
do such a complex thing.