Dir: François Girard | Writer: Ben Ripley | Cast: Garrett Wareing; Josh Lucas; Debra Winger; Kevin Mchale; Eddie Izzard; Kathy Bates and Dustin Hoffman.
UK Release: july 10th | Rated: PG
Stet (Wareing), a troubled 12-year-old with a massive chip on his shoulder (which is never explicitly divulged but one suspects we’re expected to read between the very bold lines and tropes) is living with an absent mother. Abandoned by a father he’s never met, and not able to express himself in a way that stimulates what is clearly a very smart and intuitive young man – we’re faced with a boy who is perhaps unchallenged, bored and very angry about his situation. And rightly so, when one possesses a rare power, to keep it under wraps (as the slew of comic book movies will tell you) is killer to the soul. You see, though he’s not a superhero, Stet does possess a rare and beautiful gift – the ability to sing.
However it probably helps that he looks like an angel, and that with a voice so beautiful – others want him to share it. His headmistress (Winger) sets up a surprise audition for the troubled protagonist with the world renowned maestro, Carvell (Hoffman), Stet, of course, runs away – fear of the unknown? Fear of being rejected like he has been for much of his short life? All of these things and probably more – like being blindsided by his Headmistress into an unexpected audition (who does that and expects people to be happy it, let alone a child?!?) – may have been a factor.
However it becomes apparent that Stet’s cards are already marked when his life tragically takes a turn for the worst and he finds himself, with the help of that meddling (though well intentioned) headmistress and the arrival of his hopeless father, back in front of Carvell and his Band of boy choir merry men.
He’s accepted into the prestigious American Boychoir private school. So sets the course for the story of a child, lonely and socially inept – plunged into a world of privilege, discipline – where the stakes are raised and the fall from his pedestal is much farther. He’s now rolling with the best, and indifference and bad temperament will get him nowhere.
He also has a lot to learn, like reading music, taking direction from adults, many of whom are variants of the father figures he never had. He has something to prove, not only to others but to himself. It’s all very overwhelming and heartbreaking and with a unique look into the competitive albeit juvenile extremely funny.
A Cinderella story of sorts Boy Choir is not what i was expecting when the image of Stet: opening with him looking disruptively non-committal in his music class, having just smart-mouthed his teacher, he takes to the rough streets of some downtown burb in North America – resembling a type of Holden Caulfield than a child with a voice of an angel.
Beautifully scripted, acted and shot (a great cast, with two of the most arguably cream of the crop actors of our time – Bates and Hoffman) François Girard and Ben Ripley have created an endearing poignant film, which is as much about the power of determination, dreams and self worth as it is about growing up and navigating the fine line between boyhood and becoming a man. Without getting overtly preachy I also think in many ways, that it’s an important family film, for young boys in particular to see.
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