It’s quite clear the love and affection the director Francois Girard and his cast have for the subject matter of Boychoir, and that unabashedly embrace of hope and loveliness does well to distract from mere formula and contrivance.
The framework should be mighty familiar: a young child from a troubled home acts out in school, causes chaos in the streets, and has a problem with authority. However, he has an innate talent that may help him rise above the despair, make a better life for himself, and who knows, learn some important life lessons along the way.
In this case, the gift bestowed upon 11-year-old Stet (Garrett Wareing) is his voice – his angelic, prepubescent voice. When his home life crumbles alongside his public schooling, Stet’s lifelong absent father (Josh Lucas) enters the picture to help him out, but only briefly. Stet heads to a private boychoir academy, and everything changes.
Suddenly he is forced to bunk with snobby teen singers and obey disciplinarians and educators in Dustin Hoffman and Eddie Izzard. All the tropes are there, but the assemblage of actors, which includes a very funny Kathy Bates who keeps the egos in check of these two teachers, makes Boychoir a better film than the script and narrative creates.
While bordering on emotional-manipulation, the singing and music is indeed beautiful, as is every scene the camera falls on. It’s this loveliness, this knowing the path and speed the story will unfold, that make the film worth watching. It’s a piece of cinema that won’t sway how you feel; it will simply help you move in that direction. It’s easy to dismiss for its simplicity, but may also be easy to embrace if that’s what you’re in the mood for.
Well-executed with the occasionally expository, cringe-worthy dialogue, Boychoir is charms and affects, albeit briefly, and maybe falsely.