It may be the heart of winter here in the United States, but it’s the perfect time of year for a surfing trip Down Under. In Ocean Boy, director Tyler Atkins’ tubular coming-of-age film, we get more than our fair share of Aussies riding the waves on the picturesque Australian coastline. Admittedly, the surfing narrative may not hold the cultural currency it once had in the late 1960s. Still, the slimmest of threads have historically been used to justify another trip out to the breakers. But is that ultimately enough reason to bust out the Sex Wax and board shorts to watch this film written by Atkins and Drue Metz?
We glimpse the world of Ocean Boy through the eyes of young Rockit (Rasmus King). This pre-adolescent surfer with long, bleach-blonde hair befitting one who spends almost every waking hour on the beach is the product of a broken home. His mom is out of the picture, leaving his dad to care for Rockit as a responsible father should. Unfortunately, his dad is the deadbeat but fun-loving Bosch (Luke Hemsworth), a hunky burn-out with a marijuana farm. The world of Bosch and Rockit is turned upside down when a sudden fire burns down their property – along with the valuable stash of cocaine that Bosch was forced to sell for some corrupt police officers.
“…Bosch has to skip town, subsequently convincing Rockit that they’re finally going on a long overdue surfing vacation…”
Knowing that the forces at be will eventually come looking for the drugs (or cash), Bosch has to skip town, subsequently convincing Rockit that they’re finally going on a long overdue surfing vacation along the coast. During their travels, Rockit meets Ash-Ash (Savannah La Rain), sparking the beginnings of a young romance that is admittedly adorable. Bosch, around the same timeframe, meets Deb (Isabel Lucas), a down-to-earth young woman surely to be let down by the shenanigans of his man-child lifestyle.
This is the basic set-up, and the screenplay rarely strays from convention as the plot progresses. Ocean Boy is dressed up with copious amounts of surfing footage that, along with frequent establishing shots of exquisite beaches, serve to pad the unfolding of events with a sense of exoticism. Sure, Australia is a beautiful country, and watching real-life surfing professional Rasmus King on the waves is, at the very least, an eye-opening experience. Still, it’s not enough to distract the viewer from the general banality at play. Instead of a taut coming-of-age drama, we seem to have gotten a surfing movie that happens to have a skeleton of a story.
This could have been something special if Atkins and company had gone more strongly in one direction or another. One still may get some mileage out of the film because of the natural beauty that Australia brings to the frame. For your surfing fix, however, I’d recommend either heading out to the waves in person or making use of that National Geographic subscription. For those yearning for that next coming-of-age gem, you might have to go elsewhere because Ocean Boy might have strayed out too far from land – which is anything but a bitchin’ experience.
"…get some mileage out of the film because of the natural beauty that Australia brings..."