Feedback requested on Boy film essay

What grade might this get and why?
How could it be improved?

2020 Q 2:
Describe an important character
Explain how the character is – or is not – a role model for teenagers

Characters in films can teach us much about human nature. In Taika Waititi’s film, Boy, the main character, Boy, is first seen as a responsible young person - a good role model for teenagers. Yet as the film progresses and the influence of his father grows, Boy turns into a less responsible and more negative character - someone on whom teenagers should not model their behaviour. We see Boy’s qualities most clearly through mise-en-scene, shot composition and dialogue.

At the start of the film, Boy is shown as a positive role model for teenagers. Although he is only 11 years old, his Nan leaves him in charge of the house, his brother and his four cousins. This shows us that she trusts him to be responsible. Through use of mise-en-scene (props) and dialogue we see that he gets nutritious food on the table. The complaint “Not crayfish again!” makes the audience laugh as crayfish is a healthy meal and in urban areas it is often viewed as a luxury or gourmet meal item. Boy then says karakia before the children start eating. This shows an understanding of proper customs or kawa. Boy also makes sure that the children work together to do the chores and clean up. He is clearly the leader. His responsible leadership role is reinforced through shot composition when strangers (Alamein and his gang) approach the house at night. Boy approaches the car first and stands between the car and his younger brother, Rocky, and cousin, Kelly, who remain near the house. This makes him the spokesperson for the children. He is the one who is checking out whether these strangers are friend or foe. This suggests he is brave and responsible - all positive role model qualities.

After Alamein’s arrival, things change when Boy tries to imitate his dad in order to appear “cool”. Boy becomes less of a positive role model because he becomes selfish and irresponsible. We can see the change clearly through mise-en-scene (costume, props) and dialogue. For example, at the shed party, Boy, has had his hair cut by dad to “look like Michael Jackson” and is wearing a denim jean jacket. He is holding a beer bottle and is clearly drunk. Alamein has encouraged him to drink, even though he is only 11 years old. Kelly comes to find him asking “Boy, where’s our dinner?” He replies angrily: “Do I look like your bloody mother? I’m sick of you bloody kids!” Boy is more interested in trying to appear cool and staunch than looking after the rest of his whanau.
He is not honouring the trust which Nan put in him. We also see his meanness outside the store in the iceblock scene when he boasts to Holden about his supposed conquest of Chardonnay. He tells unpleasant and untrue stories about her, to make him seem like more of a man in front of his mates. Through a reaction shot on Dynasty, we see that she is not impressed by this boast. She rolls her eyes at his claims.

Near the end of the film, Boy realises the truth about his father - that he has never been there when needed. The shed conflict scene is when Boy confronts Alamein with the hurt he has caused. He yells: “You weren’t there! Where were you?” He then adds, “I thought I was like you but I’m not!” After the fight in the shed, Boy literally and symbolically turns his back on his father and walks off with Rocky, leaving Alamein behind as a broken, smaller man. We then see Boy change back to his more responsible self. Again we see this through use of mise-en-scene. Boy screws the door knobs back on to the doors, and the little cousins use children’s drawings to cover up holes that Alamein has punched in the walls. Boy and Kelly also put Nan’s things back in her chest of drawers. They calmly work together to restore order after the chaos caused by Alamein coming back into their lives. When Boy finds his carving in the shed, its paua eyes have been added by Alamein. It is as if the carving, the father and the audience now see Boy as he truly is - a responsible and more mature person.

In conclusion, Waititi’s film shows us to be careful what we wish for. We see that Boy is tempted into bad ways by choosing a poor role model - his largely childlike and selfish father. But with time, Boy also finds the power to return to a more moral and selfless role in looking after his younger brother and cousins, just as his Nan had undoubtedly taught him to do. At the end, Boy is a calmer and more likeable character. He therefore is ultimately a good role model for teenagers. Through his experiences, teenagers can also learn to be more clear-eyed about the people they want to emulate, and that they have the power also to make better decisions for their own lives.

Kia ora Lizzit - welcome back to Studyit, great to see you back using it!

You have set up a really clear thesis/argument in your intro - this is a great way to tackle this question and a good choice for this film.

A strong use of film techniques as examples and a sense of the audience response - a generally really well written essay and with a couple of small tweaks I think you would be more than capable of getting Es in your essay writing in the exam.


  • I suggest remembering to “explain” a little more as you go - you definitely allude to him becoming more of a role model again in the third para - but need to explain more why - EG him showing that leadership again is a role model for TEENAGERS in particular because…?

  • Try to get “beyond” the text a bit more in your paragraphs - for example when you talk about Boy trying to appear staunch instead of taking care of his whanau, you might build on that by talking about how often kids or teenagers can go through phases where image is important and they might forget what their values are, etc etc. Try to get to that “significant idea” and make connections to the world, other texts, etc.

  • I suggest incorporating reference to the director a little more to make that “purpose” a little clearer - “Waititi here utilises mise-en-scene to” “Here the director helps the audience to understand that…” - just a bit more of this throughout will help the marker follow that you understand the director is crafting this for a purpose.

All in all - a very convincing essay with a lot of potential - feel free to go through and make these changes and post back here for more feedback if you would like :slight_smile: