The movie ‘This Boy’s Life’, which is based on the real life of American author Tobias Wolff, features renowned actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Ellen Barkin in the leading roles while actors Jonah Blechman, Eliza Dushku, Chris Cooper, Carla Gugino, Tracey Ellis, Kathy Kinney, Tobey Maguire, Deanna Milligan and Morgan Brayton play the other minor roles. The film is directed by Michael Caton-Jones, and is a classic tale of domestic abuse, emotional neglect and other issues faced by Tobias. ‘This Boy’s Life’ follows the theme of escape, which was popular during the nineties, with fight and flight playing an important role in the film. Based on the award-winning memoir of the same name by the real Tobias Wolff, the film does a great job in portraying the struggles of the growing boy as he plans to escape his abusing step-father. Tobias played by Leonardo DiCaprio, the protagonist of the film, who later changes his name to Jack, and acts as the narrator in the movie.
The film begins with a mother’s search for a better life and a proper, complete family for her son. On meeting the seemingly charming Dwight Hansen portrayed by Robert De Niro, she feels that her search has ended and Dwight might be the perfect father for Tobias. But little does she know about Dwight’s real personality and what’s in store for her in the future. Tobias, however, saw right through Dwight and instantly disliked him. Despite Tobias’ reservations about Dwight , the desperate mother Caroline, portrayed by Ellen Barkin, marries him with the hopes of financial security and a functional family. With the expectation that this new life will finally change Toby’s bad ways, Caroline continues to live with Dwight despite his controlling nature. On the other hand, Toby tries to devise an escape with the help of his friend Arthur and in the end both Caroline and Toby escape to their freedom.
Robert De Niro’s portrayal of Dwight was menacing enough and the mother’s worried behavior was also played well by Barkin, but it is DiCaprio who steals the show in this movie. Released under the direction of Michael Caton-Jones who is famous for other successful films like ‘Scandal’, the film comes out as a very gloomy tale. Other films with similar story lines such as ‘The Client’ and ‘Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore’ have done a better job in my opinion. Leonardo DiCaprio is usually remembered for his many successful movies in which he played various types of roles. But ‘This Boy’s Life’ was not one of his best films. However, DiCaprio does a brilliant job of portraying the growing boy who matches toe to toe with the dominating and abusive step-father and ultimately gains freedom. Jack, who is usually devoid of any power due to his mother’s bad relationships, feels confidence and bravery when he holds his Winchester rifle which is why it was very dear to him.
The character of Dwight Hansen, the main antagonist in the movie, is described as a cruel, coldhearted...