This Boy's Life

April 9th, 1993


more trailers This Boy's Life

The story about the relationship between a rebellious 50s teenager and his abusive father, based on the memoirs of writer and literature professor Tobias Wolff.

Release Year: 1993

Rating: 7.2/10 (16,173 voted)

Critic's Score: 60/100

Director: Michael Caton-Jones

Stars: Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Barkin

In 1957, a son and mother flee the East and an abusive boyfriend to find a new life, and end up in Seattle, where the mother meets a polite garage mechanic. The boy continually gets into trouble by hanging out with the wrong crowd. The mom marries the mechanic, but they soon find out that he's an abusive and unreasoning alcoholic, and they struggle to maintain hope in an impossible situation as the boy grows up with plans to escape the small town by any means possible. Based on a true story by Tobias Wolff.

Writers: Tobias Wolff, Robert Getchell

Robert De Niro - Dwight Hansen
Ellen Barkin - Caroline Wolff Hansen
Leonardo DiCaprio - Tobias 'Toby' Wolff
Jonah Blechman - Arthur Gayle
Eliza Dushku - Pearl
Chris Cooper - Roy
Carla Gugino - Norma
Zachary Ansley - Skipper (as Zack Ansley)
Tracey Ellis - Kathy
Kathy Kinney - Marian
Robert Zameroski - Arch Cook (as Bobby Zameroski)
Tobey Maguire - Chuck Bolger
Tristan Tait - Jerry Huff
Travis MacDonald - Psycho
Richard Liss - A&P Manager

Taglines: He looked like the ideal husband. He seemed like the perfect father. That's just what they needed. But that's not what they got.

Release Date: 9 April 1993

Filming Locations: Britannia Beach, British Columbia, Canada

Gross: $4,104,962 (USA)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

Tobey Maguire first auditioned for the part of Toby but director Michael Caton-Jones thought he wasn't right for the role. Leonardo DiCaprio, who is close friends with Maguire, still wanted him to be apart of the film so he got him the role of Toby's friend Chuck Bolger.

Continuity: During the finger cutting scene, the finger shown in close up with special effects is not the finger shown when the camera pans back to original shot.

[first lines]
Tobias 'Toby' Wolff: It was 1957. We were driving from Florida to Utah. After my mother was beaten up by her boyfriend, we got in the Nash and high-tailed it for the uranium fields. We were gonna get rich and change our luck, which hadn't been so hot since our family broke up five years back.

User Review

A remarkably compelling piece of work, with groundbreaking performances by DeNiro and DiCaprio

Rating: 9/10

I heard of this movie before, but I had no knowledge of what it was about, and basically rented it because it looked good and Robert DeNiro is the star--my Number One favorite actor.

Well, DeNiro's performance is one of the high points of the film, and he is extraordinary as the abusive father who seems pleasant and jovial at times, but can turn violent when you push his buttons. Leonardo DiCaprio is also great, in one of the best performances of his career. Over the years, he's been gaining a reputation as a glamour guy. And that he is, but you must see his performance in this movie before regarding him as "just another pretty face." He was still in his early teens (I'm guessing) when he made this film, so this was a long time before he hit it big with "Titanic." Ellen Barkin is also good, but I wish her character could've been developed a little more. I kept wondering, during the course of the film, why she felt like withstanding Dwight's abuse for such a long period of time. In the beginning of the film, she's established as a free spirit--the kind of woman that romances a man, then drives off to another state to find her next man. Well, why didn't she do the same thing with this jerk? The film is based on a true story, so I'm sure she really did stay with him that long, but I just wanted to know her motives.

"This Boy's Life" is a solid, beautifully made slice-of-life that kept me glued to the screen from start to finish. The climax is an emotional powerhouse that made me want to stand up and cheer. Please check out this underrated masterpiece!

My score: 9 (out of 10)