Category Archives: “This Boy’s Life”

The Power of Determination


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

the blanks.

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…