Cars The Movie Logo

The key word in Boy is "potential." It's repeatedly spoken aloud by the title character (James Rolleston), an eleven-year-old Maori living in Waihau Bay, New Zealand in 1984. Initially, he has no idea what it means. All the same, he thinks he has plenty of it. From our perspective, his circumstances suggest otherwise; he lives a meager existence on a farm with his grandmother, Nan (Mavis Paenga), his kid brother, Rocky (Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu), a pet goat named Leaf, and several cousins. All he really has going for him is his love of Michael Jackson and memories of his father. Even then, they aren't real memories. They're merely tall tales Boy has invented as a coping mechanism for his absence. In reality, his father has been out of the picture for several years, having been sent to prison for robbing the local gas station.

When Nan goes off to Wellington to attend a funeral, Boy is left in charge. This would be right around the start of the summer holiday, at which point he first hears one of his teachers use the word "potential" and becomes fixated on it. Not long after, three men drive up to Boy's home. One of them is his long-lost father, Alamein (Taika Waititi, also the film's writer and director). Boy is immediately taken by him. He has a cool black car. He has started his own gang called The Crazy Horses. True, it currently only has three members, but at least Alamein gets to wear a badass leather jacket with the logo on the back. He likes Michael Jackson too, but he's an even bigger fan of Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and he will spend a great deal of time professing his admiration for E.T.'s magic healing touch.

At this point, Boy has looked up the word "potential" in the dictionary. All the fancy words used in the definition confuse him, and yet he seems to get the general idea. With his father back in his life, he believes he has finally found his potential: To be exactly like him. Alamein eventually says that he doesn't wish to be addressed as Dad but as Shogun, like a Japanese warrior. In response, Boy wishes to be addressed as Little Shogun. The two will for a time come together as they dig holes in a nearby field looking for what Alamein calls buried treasure. We already know that, in reality, Alamein and his men are looking for the spot in which they buried the money they stole from the gas station. His problem is that he can't remember how many paces he went into the field, nor the fencepost from which he started.

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