'The Boys Are Back' , in Australia

Steven Rea
The Philadelphia Inquirer (MCT)

After the success of "Shine" — the 1998 Down Under drama about a piano prodigy (Geoffrey Rush) with a personality disorder — its director, Scott Hicks, was dispatched to Hollywood and went off on a busy run that kept him far afield for long stretches of time. There were three big features: "Snow Falling on Cedars," adapted from the David Guterson bestseller; "Hearts in Atlantis," from the Stephen King book, with Anthony Hopkins starring; and "No Reservations," the Catherine Zeta-Jones restaurateur romancer.

Now, with "The Boys Are Back," an effective weepie about a father forced to juggle work and single-parenting duties after his wife dies, Hicks was able to return home. Quite literally.

"The incredible luxury with this film was being able to sleep in my own bed at night," says Hicks, on the phone from South Australia. "In fact, when we were shooting in the house locations, I have a beach house which is much closer to that location than to the city, so I was in my holiday house while I was working, which is kind of cool. ... One of the scenes in the film is shot from the balcony of my beach house, so it really got close to home."

"The Boys Are Back," adapted from the memoir of a popular Aussie sports journalist, boasts a formidable performance from Clive Owen. The film is a small and emotional affair, but the director opens things up by shooting some of the world's most amazing landscapes: blond hills and lavender fields, teeming with kangaroos and wild birds, leading to a rocky coastline of breathtaking beaches and coves.

"What was wonderful to me was being able to take these elements in a story that I really loved and set them in a landscape that I not only understand but that I also really love," says Hicks, who runs his own vineyard, Yacca Paddock (check out, in the Adelaide Hills.

"This is where I come back to when I'm not working. It's my source, and where I come to recharge, so it was quite inspirational to be able to use the landscape in this creative way.

"Emotionally, (the film) is a little chamber piece — it's very much focused on the core set of relationships between the father and his sons ... But what I felt I was able to do was provide a sense of scale and some sort of grandeur, given how powerful the landscapes are."

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