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This Boy’s Life (1993)

This poignant adaptation of a Tobias Wolff memoir takes a realistic look at growing up in the 1950s.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Toby (Tobias), a young man who’s travelling west in 1957 with his flighty mother, Caroline (Ellen Barkin). She long ago left his Dad and older brother and is now fleeing the latest in a series of cruel boyfriends.

Eventually, mother and son reach Seattle. There, she takes up with mechanic Dwight Hansen (Robert De Niro) living in the backwater town of Concrete.

As the destructive stepdad, De Niro gives vent to the power of his dark side, but without eclipsing DiCaprio’s sensitive and sympathetic portrayal of the troubled youth.

Dwight propounds the verities of 1950s familyhood with increasing vehemence and violence, fuelled by day-long doses of alcohol and a bizarre self-centeredness.

The film deals with how Toby (or Jack as he prefers to be called) copes with the socially acceptable insanity that has come to reign in his ramshackle household (he has three step-siblings, too). He alternates between bouts of sensitivity with an effeminate friend, Arthur, and frequent loutishness with delinquent buddies.

Dwight Hansen
Robert De Niro
Caroline Wolff
Ellen Barkin
Toby Wolff
Leonardo DiCaprio
Arthur Gayle
Jonah Blechman
Eliza Dushku
Chris Cooper
Carla Gugino
Zachary Ansley
Tracey Ellis
Kathy Kinney
Arch Cook
Robert Zameroski
Chuck Bolger
Tobey Maguire
Jerry Huff
Tristan Tait

Michael Caton-Jones