A Boy Called Po


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

A Boy Called Po
"A Boy Called Po features impressive performances from its two leads, who have great chemistry and effectively capture a complex relationship."

Being a single parent is never easy, and though there around two and a half million single fathers in the US, they're still treated as exceptional, with little support available. David (Christopher Gorham) has two additional challenges to deal with: he's still grieving over the death of his wife, and his son Po (Julian Feder) needs extra support because he's on the autistic spectrum. Coping with all this whilst holding down a demanding job as an engineer means he struggles to pay enough attention to everything, and although he thinks he's doing well, Po's teachers warn that the boy is drifting - that he may not return.

It's easy to see why Po drifts. He's subject to merciless bullying at school, which, as so often, the teachers do little to prevent. He's also an imaginative child, and the world inside his head has a glamour that the mundane one does not. Adventures with pirates and spaceships beckon; day to day, there's only his dad's love to hold him. His father doesn't want to believe it, but there's a danger that one day Po will drift so far that he doesn't come back.

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A simple family story which follows a predictable path but does it with grace, A Boy Called Po features impressive performances from its two leads, who have great chemistry and effectively capture a complex relationship. It also deserves credit for the nuanced way in which it handles the topic of autism, acknowledging that different educational approaches and therapies may be appropriate for different children, with some doing better in full time professional care and others benefiting from staying with their parents. This may sound obvious but it's a highly politicised area and to see such subtlety in a flm is rare. It's an approach that makes much more narrative space for Po to develop as a character and, crucially, to become someone who has a lot more going on than just that difference.

Outside its central storyline, this film is very much by the book. As soon as Po announces that his new therapist (Kaitlin Doubleday) is pretty, it's clear that David will soon be on the road to romance. Items and places highlighted as having sentimental value reappear exactly on cue. The soundtrack is sugary and detracts from the hard work of the actors, doing its best to smother the grit that the narrative depends on. Nevertheless, there's some good work in this film, and it does well in bringing a frequently mishandled subject to the attention of a mainstream audience in an intelligent way.

Reviewed on: 30 Aug 2017
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A father struggles to raise his autistic son following the death of his wife.

Director: John Asher

Writer: Colin Goldman

Starring: Christopher Gorham, Julian Feder, Kaitlin Doubleday

Year: 2016

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: US


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