It’s refreshing to see Daniel Radcliffe without the Harry Potter glasses for once. Although sporting a not-entirely-convincing Australian accent, the actor best known as the boy who lived can act.
December Boys tells the story of four orphans–Maps, Spit, Spark and Misty–who are all born in December. To celebrate their birth month, the nuns at their outback orphanage send them out to a summer vacation at a cove hundreds of miles away with the help of a benefactor who they soon figure out is dying of cancer. When information leaks that a young couple at the cove is planning to adopt one of them, a fierce competition arises among the boys whose only reason for living so far has been to be adopted. Maps (Radcliffe), the oldest of the four, has given up hope of finding a new set of parents, thinking that they are “overrated anyway”. He instead finds comfort in the company of a young woman with whom he, as expected, falls in love.
The cove where less than 20 people reside offers so much story to fill up the boys’ time amid fighting over who will be adopted. There is the old fisherman who has developed an affinity that borders on obsession to a gigantic fish that he calls Henry. It is not clear at all why the character developed this regard for the creature. On the other hand, the boys’ religious benefactor appears too strict at times for their own comfort, but eventually emerges as a loving woman whose reason for inviting them into her house is to fill it with “young energy”. And then there is the young couple who can’t have a child. The husband tells everyone that he is a motorbike racer only to be discovered by Maps as a mere helper at a nearby circus. Lucy, the young tempest who gives Maps his first sexual encounter, eventually leaves him without even saying goodbye.
The boys soon figure out that they already have a family, and that they don’t need to be adopted by new parents since they already have one–the eldest among them, Maps, who has always acted as their older brother and leader, the one who willingly saves one of them from drowning even if he cannot swim.
December Boys is told from the recollections of Misty, the most competitive among the boys. Set in the 50’s, the events of their summer vacation at the cove tells how seemingly simple things appear in such a small place. But events soon prove that no matter how serene life appears, it almost always is not what it appears to be. However, more than anything, the film gives an alternative description of the word “family”.