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Film / Boy (1969)

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Boy is a 1969 film from Japan, directed by Nagisa Oshima.

Set in Japan in 1966, the protagonist is Toshio, a 10-year-old boy who is deeply unfortunate in his parents. His father Takeo and his stepmother Takeko are con artists. They run a scam in which Takeko steps out in front of moving cars and pretends to get hit, whereupon Takeo extorts money out of the unfortunate motorists. (Takeo, being extraordinarily lazy and selfish, never takes the fall himself.) Things get even worse for Toshio when Takeko discovers she is pregnant; now he has to dive in front of the cars himself. The family, which also includes Toshio's little toddler brother "Peewee", lives a nomadic existence, wandering around Japan jumping in front of cars, while Toshio dreams of a better life.

Not to be confused with Boy, a 2010 New Zealand film by Taika Waititi.

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Tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: Good God.
  • Art Shift: The bulk of the film is in color but several sequences are in black-and-white for no discernible reason, including the family's stay in Hokkaido, which switches from black and white to color in the middle of a scene.
  • Dies Wide Open: The motorist who swerved into a telephone pole after Peewee steps in front of a car.
  • Domestic Abuse: The father claims that his old war wound prevents him from being the "victim" in the scam, or from getting an honest job for that matter. But he's certainly physically able enough to smack his wife around when she pisses him off.
  • Flopsy: How Toshio's parents make a living, by arranging fake car accidents, with poor little Toshio the one who has to step in front of the cars.
  • Geisha: They are the entertainment at a sort of dinner theater restaurant that the family attends.
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  • The Ghost: The rest of Toshio's family. Toshio's stepmother claims that his real mother is in a hospital dying of TB. His father claims that Toshio's grandparents were glad to see him go and don't want him back. We never see the mother or the grandparents and never find out if this is true.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Although she isn't that good, really. The mother finds out she is pregnant. The father wants her to get an abortion. The mother pretends to, but doesn't, as she hopes having another baby will force her husband to quit the life and get a real job.
  • Little Brother Is Watching: A particularly tragic example. A nasty argument among the other three members of the family ends with Peewee, who after all has spent his whole childhood watching his mother and brother step in front of cars, stepping in front of a car. The motorist swerves to avoid him, hits a telephone pole, and dies.
  • No Name Given: The father, the mother, and the boy are named in the newsreel-style footage towards the end of the film, but Toshio's little brother "Peewee" is not.
  • One-Word Title: Protagonist Title, presumably, named for Toshio, the boy protagonist.
  • Protagonist Title: Presumably, named for Toshio, the boy protagonist. Also a One-Word Title.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Inspired by a real-life scandal in 1966 Japan, when just such a couple was arrested for running just such a scam in which they arranged for their 10-year-old son to be hit by cars.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: The father tries this in one scene where the mother is yelling at him. In other scenes he just hits her.
  • Snow Means Death: The snowbound town at the far northern end of Hokkaido has a rather ominous mood. The boy elects to wander off into the snow to his death but Peewee stops him. Later, the fatal crash of the motorist happens on a snowy hillside road.
  • Time Skip: A rather startling one. Toshio has run away from his abusive family, but, unable to afford the train all the way to his grandparents, he instead rides to a random beach town. The next scene finds him back with his parents, with no explanation of how that came to happen.
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