Blu-ray Review: ABOUT A BOY - A Faithful, Multi-Layered Comedy But No Extra's!

British author Nick Hornby€™s second novel About A Boy is a study of teenage isolation and a friendship forged through a shared love of the band Nirvana. The book€™s title was inspired by a song (€˜About A Girl€™) on Nirvana€™s debut album €˜Bleach€™ and was written in the wake of Kurt Cobain€™s suicide. When it was announced that the book was to be adapted into a film by the guys behind €˜American Pie€™ Cobain€™s widow, Courtney Love reportedly stepped in and vetoed any mention or use of Nirvana€™s music in the film. As a result the film is substantially different from the book but still manages to capture the essence of Hornby€™s novel. About A Boy was re-released as part of Universal's on-going back catalogue Blu-ray upgrades. Here is our review... Will (Hugh Grant) is a rich, child-free, irresponsible Londoner who, in search of available women, invents an imaginary son and starts attending single parent meetings. As a result of one of his liaisons, he meets Marcus (a young Nicholas Hoult), an odd 12-year-old with problems at school and a depressed mother (Toni Collette) at home. Gradually, Will and Marcus become friends, and as Will teaches Marcus how to be a cool kid, Marcus helps Will to finally grow up, fall in love and possibly even commit to a real adult relationship with a lovely single mother (Rachel Weisz). The film follows the basic structure of the book quite closely, maintaining the duel voiceover from Will and Marcus intertwining like chapters of the book. The cinematography and editing are expertly subtle, with shots carefully framed as the camera glides through scenes enhancing the transitions between characters. It all moves along at a fair pace ably assisted by the excellent soundtrack composed and performed by Badly Drawn Boy perfectly capturing the mood of the film. The film€™s blend of comedy and drama works very well, taking on themes of depression, suicide and peer pressure while still maintaining a fairly light tone. About A Boy's major coup is in the casting. Hugh Grant eschews his usual typical portrayal of an English fop to play Will completely against type as an arrogant and shallow man-child living his life free from responsibility. Nicholas Hoult making his film debut makes an immediate impression as Marcus. It is not often that a child actor can command attention and hold a film together without relying on being cute or mischievous. There is something instantly likeable and believable about Hoult€™s portrayal of the character that sets it apart from other recent child performances. Toni Collette and Rachel Weisz also shine in their supporting roles. The Weitz brothers were certainly an unusual choice to direct the film, particularly as the film stays true to its roots maintaining the UK setting unlike previous Hornby adaptation €˜High Fidelity€™. While €˜American Pie€™ was certainly a huge success, the humour was, let€™s face it, not so subtle, that film did however have heart. This carries over into €˜About A Boy€™ where they also prove that they have an expert eye for comic timing and a good grasp of the British sense of humour. Originally made in 2002 the film has not dated too badly and is a welcome addition on Blu-ray. Despite some major changes to the plot of the original novel the film does not suffer as a result and definitely deserves a second look as it is one of the better comedy dramas to come out of the UK in the last ten years with all round excellent performances and a terrific soundtrack.

Quality

Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and in Full HD 1080p with 5.1 DTS HD audio the film looks and sounds better than ever as you may expect. However, unless you are desperate for improved picture and sound quality there is little reason to upgrade from the DVD due to the lack of any extras.

Extras

Universal€™s lack of commitment to their Blu-ray catalogue releases is rather worrying. Very little effort has been made to entice people to the format. By not including extras readily available on the DVD release why would anyone want to pay out more money to upgrade? This Blu-ray edition includes no special features whatsoever. About A Boy was released on Blu-ray this week.
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Chris Wright hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.