In the Oscar derby for Best Actor, is it better to die or to grieve? Clive Owen opts for the latter in this strained, sentimental adaptation of a memoir by widowed English journalist Simon Carr. His 2001 book—boozy, breezy, and thoroughly unsystematic—was a precursor to the new laissez-faire parenting movement. Which Owen's sportswriter character describes thus for his two sons (teen and preteen): Let them play with sharp sticks, let them make a mess, let them stay up late, "Just say yes." In the gorgeous coastal province of South Australia, the results are like Lord of the Flies meets a J. Crew catalog spread, as if the pirates have overrun Neverland. Both star and producer (and a father offscreen), Owen is determined to present his gentler domestic side here: He cries and grieves and learns to juggle career and home life—all without benefit of estrogen! (Mothers will roll their eyes at the spectacle of Owen fumbling with toast and laundry.) But this father and his film—directed by Shine's Scott Hicks—are only fun to watch while the mischief outweighs the mending. Inevitably, this all-male household must come to terms with, ahem, feelings, which kills the testosterone buzz. Carr's original anecdotes don't supply much storyline, and Hicks spans the gaps with golden-lit montages set to Sigur Rós. They're a great advertisement for Australian vacations. And vasectomies.
Proud father Owen flanked by MacKay (left) and McAnulty.
Opens at Guild 45 and Pacific Place, Fri., Oct. 2. Rated PG-13. 104 minutes.