Toby is a rebellious teenager in the 1950s and everything is about to change when he gets a new stepfather who thinks he can get him in line.
This Boy’s Life is a very tough to watch film at times and that is not really a bad thing. As the abuse and bullying from Dwight to Toby grows and he fights back it really does make for some emotional and draining scenes. Toby or as he wants to be known as Jack, has pushed his mother Caroline to edge as he keeps getting kicked out of different schools in the different states they have moved around. She has had a string of abusive relationships and when she meets Dwight it appears that everything will change for the better. They could not be more wrong as his abusive and aggressive nature comes out during a Thanksgiving celebration, yet she still sends Toby to live with him first and marries him anyway.
In Concrete it is a simplistic way of live and Dwight at first looks as though he just wants Toby to be better and behave himself. Which seems far enough, making him firstly attend school then having a paper route job and do chores at home. You can get on board with that and getting him to attend the scouts as it will in still good manners and life skills. However, those things aren’t done without emotional and physical abuse from Dwight towards Toby. Who give him his due fights back at him as well. I have to admit when he forced him to have his hair cut was particular sad as well, considering we had seen Toby spend a lot of time on this.
Two years are passed over and he is still in hell with Dwight, although this seems to give his own kids a little bit of a break from his shouting and erratic behaviour. Caroline cannot really fight back against him as she is not strong enough to do that. Toby saw his only way out to get into a prep school, where he must actually lie on the applications considering his attendance at school over the years is not very high at all.
His friendship with Arthur Gayle was reassuring considering the name calling that went on and the fight that they had. I thought that was the big thing in showing that Toby really did want to be better and certainly did not want to end up like Dwight. Arthur was gay and felt trapped in Concrete and unsure how he could ever get out as well. As it turned out the two boys had a lot more in common than they first realised.
The performances are outstanding, Leonardo DiCaprio has always shown how good of an actor he is even in his early roles and in particular this one which was his first film role. He more than holds his own on screen with Robert De Niro and the pair exchange some very difficult yet powerful scenes. DiCaprio is given plenty of character development throughout the film and that is a joy to watch. De Niro has a horrible role no two ways about it, and he manages to delivery in the best possible way. Ellen Barkin was also impressive, I haven’t seen many of her films and thought she played a very good part in this film.
The film and story is based on the life of writer Tobias Wolff and to see information on what happened to him next after the credits rolled was nice considering this very tough stage of his life!