About a Boy Movie (2002)

About a Boy movie has an interesting premise about two people who help each other to grow up and although it’s pleasant, it’s hardly remarkable. It may appeal to male viewers who are tiring of the Hugh Grant charm.

The story: Will Freeman is a wealthy Londoner in his 30s who lives off the royalties of a Christmas song his father wrote. Pretending to be a single dad, he attends lone parent meetings in the hope of bedding available women. Through one of his hookups, he meets awkward, preteen Marcus who lives with his depressed mother, Fiona. Marcus tries to do what he can to help his mother but he’s bullied at school because he speaks and sings to himself. Will and Marcus are opposites but become friends and offer each other lessons in growing up.


  • It’s smarter, sharper and edgier than the usual rom-com fare
  • Hugh Grant’s usual mannerisms are absent here and he comes across as likeable as the man-child coming of age
  • The relationship between Will and Marcus is never overtly cute, phoney or forced
  • The film doesn’t attempt to make Marcus adorable or too smart for his age
  • The humor (though insufficient) comes from the characters rather than the impossible situations present in most rom-coms
  • Nick Hornby’s wry observational prose are used in the voice-overs and overall the dual narration works well
  • None of the characters are sickly-sweet


  • The songs by Badly Drawn Boy while original and non-intrusive are unfortunately forgettable
  • The direction and editing are sometimes clumsy and the third act comes across as far too predictable
  • Much of the novel’s minor details aren’t in the movie
  • Will doesn’t appear to have any friends
  • Marcus’s line readings are too hurried
  • Some of the humor mightn’t translate well for non-British audiences
  • Rachel Weisz illuminates an interesting screen presence but she hardly gets any screen time
  • Marcus’s mom sways between serious and kooky making her out of whack with the rest of the cast
  • Her suicide attempt seems to be glossed over
  • The subplot of Marcus’s crush on a fellow class mate is never fully developed

About a Boy (the third adaptation of a Nick Hornby novel) is based on the very successful book and features lots of talented British actors. It was unusual to see American directors attached to a very British subject and the movie was originally meant to be set in the States with George Clooney as the lead.

Hugh Grant seems to play the role of the English fop over and over again but there’s a slight twist here as his character isn’t as posh as his other more famous roles. He’s likeable and believable as shallow Will who tries to pick up women by pretending to be a single father and the movie is pretty okay when he’s onscreen doing his best with the average material. Hoult, while a good actor unfortunately doesn't fare as well and seems out of his depth playing the troubled Marcus.

The film has it’s faults as it skirts plausibility at times and there really aren’t many funny or memorable moments and no crisp one-liners. You get the feeling that had it been directed by Richard Curtis it would have been a much better picture.

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