A memoir led to the movie, “This Boy’s Life.” The movie came out,
to much critical acclaim, in 1993. It is well worth seeing all
over again, just to see how Leonardo DiCaprio began his career,
with such finesse and quality acting.
The movie tells the true life story of Tobias Wolff. The screenplay
was written by Robert Getchell. The movie was directed by Michael
It all begins in the year, 1957, where a boy who is known to be
a troublemaker has been moved around a lot with a mother who has
her own issues. Toby is around the age of 13 years old. I could
relate to some of the subject matters, although I would have
only been two years old when the story begins.
Ellen Barkin plays a scattered woman with low self esteem, who
desperately loves her son, trying to always figure out ways
where they can be together. Her intent is for them to have a
good life. You can see how sincerely loving she is towards
her son, although you will probably wonder about her choices.
Their life has included a father who took off once Toby was
born, a boyfriend who is very controlling and then, an escape
from this bad situation.
They land in Seattle, Washington, with only a few suitcases
and even, despite Toby’s inquiring before leaving,
“Don’t you want to take the canned goods?”
His being accustomed to the packing and leaving sequence is
evident in that simple question.
A seemingly ‘perfect man’ comes along, playing a proper suitor.
The mother’s excited and so are her waitress friends. He is a
The ‘new guy’ displays some suave and sophisticated airs, like
lighting a woman’s cigarette, with a sweep of his arm and flash
of the lighter. Later on, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Toby,
imitates the ‘new guy’s’ tone of voice and flashy behaviors,
“to a T.”
While wooing the mother, played by Ellen Barkin, he is very
boastful of the town he is from called, “Concrete.”
I won’t tell you too many details, but Robert De Niro plays
the new stepfather who is jealous of his stepson. It becomes
apparent, when he marries her before taking her to his home,
to meet the three children, that he needed her in the role
of being a mother.
the mother to be there to take care of his own three children.
Once there, they find themselves in an attractive and well
kept house in the ‘boondocks.’ There is a moment where the
older son, Toby’s stepbrother, mentions that it is 40 miles
to get to school from their house in the country. His father,
who is argumentative and tyrannical in his behavior, argues
about this fact.
The true story is narrated by Tobias, Toby or as he wishes
people would call him, “Jack.” He gets in with the ‘wrong’
crowd, soon enough. There are moments where you cringe,
others where you feel the lyrical beauty in a story that
you just hope will turn out okay. It is a hauntingly and
painful story that unwinds until the credits roll, telling
you where each member of the family is (in 1993, when the
movie was released).
The carefully choreographed, spinning tale slowly unfolds
of a ‘punk’ or a rebel who realizes his only way out of
Concrete is to make it into Prep School. He takes his older
stepbrother’s advice, taking the admission test, fudging on
his ‘resume’ and actually getting a blank transcript where
he has the ability of using the old typewriter to fill in
This much you may have known from your first viewing of the
movie. I barely touched on the details that had faded in my
memory bank. This is a fascinating memoir which led to a
great movie of triumphing over obstacles. It is more than
any boy’s life, it is one of someone who had a rather horrific
childhood and overcame all the odds. I don’t think I grasped
the potential for death or realize that the harrowing escape
meant everything, when I saw, “This Boy’s Life,” for the first
I highly recommend seeing this movie, if you haven’t seen it
in awhile! Or if you haven’t, If you would like to try an
engrossing and in the end, uplifting book or movie, borrow
“This Boy’s Life” from the library!
Let me know how you liked this, if you have seen it…