About a Boy (film)

About a Boy is a 2002 romantic comedy-drama film directed by Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz and written by them and Peter Hedges. It is an adaptation of the 1998 novel of the same name by Nick Hornby. The film stars Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult, Toni Collette, and Rachel Weisz. The film at times uses double voice-over narration, when the audience hears both Will's and Marcus's thoughts.

About a Boy
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based onAbout a Boy
by Nick Hornby
Music by
CinematographyRemi Adefarasin
Edited byNick Moore
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • 26 April 2002 (2002-04-26) (UK)
  • 17 May 2002 (2002-05-17) (US)
Running time
101 minutes
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • France
  • Germany[1]
Budget$30 million
Box office$130.5 million[2]

The film was theatrically released on 26 April 2002 by Universal Pictures. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Actors Hugh Grant and Toni Collette were nominated for a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award, respectively, for their performances. The film received positive reviews from critics and it earned $130.5 million on a $30 million budget.


Will Freeman[3] lives a serene and luxurious lifestyle devoid of responsibility in London thanks to substantial royalties left to him from a successful Christmas song composed by his father. In an attempt to meet single women with children (whom Will believes have low expectations in the men they date), Will begins attending a single parent support group, where he falsely states that he has a two-year old son named Ned. He meets an attractive woman named Suzie in the group, and during a planned play-date with her, he meets Marcus, the son of Suzie's friend Fiona, who was unexpectedly brought along by Suzie. Will gains Marcus's interest and trust after he lies to a park ranger to cover up for Marcus accidentally killing a duck by throwing his mother's cottage loaf at it. Afterward, when Will and Suzie take Marcus home, they find Fiona in the living room, overdosed on pills in a suicide attempt.

Marcus attempts to fix Will up with his mother in order to cheer her up, but the plan fails after a single date. Instead, Marcus becomes close to Will after blackmailing him with the knowledge that "Ned" doesn't exist, and begins to treat him as a surrogate big brother. Marcus's influence leads Will to mature and he seeks out a relationship with Rachel, a self-assured career woman, bonding over their experiences raising teenaged sons, though Will neglects to explain his relationship to Marcus and mistakenly introduces Marcus to Rachel's insecure son, Allie, who threatens to kill him. Marcus, in turn, develops a crush on his schoolmate Ellie but gives up his romantic interest in favor of a close platonic friendship. Will, realizing that he desires true intimacy with Rachel, decides to be honest with her about his relationship with Marcus, but this backfires and their relationship ends.

One day, Marcus comes home from school to find his mother crying in the living room. Marcus attempts to tell this to Will, but Will is withdrawn following his break-up. Marcus decides to sing at a school talent show in order to make his mother happy. Will attempts to return to his previous lifestyle, but finds it unfulfilling. Will realizes that the one thing that means something to him is Marcus, and decides to help him. He crashes a meeting of the single parents support group to find Fiona and beg her not to commit suicide. She assures him that she has no plans to do so and reveals that Marcus has decided to sing at the school show that day.

Will realizes this will be a huge embarrassment for Marcus and rushes with Fiona to the school to stop him, but Marcus is steadfast in his decision to perform, believing it will be the only thing that will make his mother happy. When Marcus steps on stage and sings his mother's favorite song—"Killing Me Softly with His Song"—the student body starts to taunt him. Suddenly, Will appears onstage with a guitar to accompany Marcus for the rest of the song, earning themselves a modest applause. Will performs an unnecessary solo immediately afterward, turning himself into the butt of the joke and rescuing Marcus from humiliation and even social suicide.

The following Christmas, Will is back with Rachel and hosts a celebration at his place with his new extended family. The idea of Will marrying Rachel is brought up and Marcus seems unenthusiastic. But Marcus reveals in voiceover that he is not against Will and Rachel marrying, merely that he believes that couples do not work on their own and that everyone needs an extended support system like he now has, concluding "No man is an island."[4]



The film was released theatrically on 26 April 2002 by Universal Pictures and was released on DVD and VHS on 2 December 2002 by Universal Studios Home Entertainment.


The film received critical acclaim, with a 94% 'Certified Fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[5] The film, with a budget of US$30 million, grossed a worldwide total of US$130,549,455.[2] In December 2002, the film was chosen by the American Film Institute as one of the ten best movies of the year. The film received a B+ CinemaScore from American audiences.[6] Almost universally praised, with an Academy Award-nominated screenplay, About a Boy was determined by The Washington Post to be "that rare romantic comedy that dares to choose messiness over closure, prickly independence over fetishised coupledom, and honesty over typical Hollywood endings."[7] Rolling Stone wrote, "The acid comedy of Grant's performance carries the film [and he] gives this pleasing heartbreaker the touch of gravity it needs".[8]

Roger Ebert observed that "the Cary Grant department is understaffed, and Hugh Grant shows here that he is more than a star, he is a resource."[9] The film earned Grant his third Golden Globe nomination, while the London Film Critics Circle named Grant its Best British Actor and GQ honoured him as one of the magazine's men of the year 2002.[10] "His performance can only be described as revelatory," wrote critic Ann Hornaday, adding that "Grant lends the shoals layer upon layer of desire, terror, ambivalence and self-awareness."[7]

The New York Observer concluded: "[The film] gets most of its laughs from the evolved expertise of Hugh Grant in playing characters that audiences enjoy seeing taken down a peg or two as a punishment for philandering and womanising and simply being too handsome for words—and with an English accent besides. In the end, the film comes over as a messy delight, thanks to the skill, generosity and good-sport, punching-bag panache of Mr. Grant's performance."[11] About a Boy also marked a notable change in Grant's boyish look. Now 41, he had lost weight and also abandoned his trademark floppy hair. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman took note of Grant's maturation in his review, saying he looked noticeably older and that it "looked good on him."[12] He added that Grant's "pillowy cheeks are flatter and a bit drawn, and the eyes that used to peer with 'love me' cuteness now betray a shark's casual cunning. Everything about him is leaner and spikier (including his hair, which has been shorn and moussed into a Eurochic bed-head mess), but it's not just his surface that's more virile; the nervousness is gone, too. Hugh Grant has grown up, holding on to his lightness and witty cynicism but losing the stuttering sherry-club mannerisms that were once his signature. In doing so, he has blossomed into the rare actor who can play a silver-tongued sleaze with a hidden inner decency."[12]


The soundtrack was released on 23 April 2002, composed by singer/songwriter Badly Drawn Boy.

Track listing
  1. "Exit Stage Right"
  2. "A Peak You Reach"
  3. "Something to Talk About"
  4. "Dead Duck"
  5. "Above You, Below Me"
  6. "I love NYE"
  7. "Silent Sigh"
  8. "Wet, Wet, Wet"
  9. "River, Sea, Ocean"
  10. "S.P.A.T."
  11. "Rachel's Flat"
  12. "Walking Out of Stride"
  13. "File Me Away"
  14. "A Minor Incident"
  15. "Delta (Little Boy Blues)"
  16. "Donna and Blitzen"

See also


  1. "About a Boy". Lumiere Database. European Audiovisual Observatory. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  2. About a Boy at Box Office Mojo
  3. The name, Will is a good example of charactonym.
  4. A passage from Devotions upon Emergent Occasions written by John Donne.
  5. About A Boy at Rotten Tomatoes
  6. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/news/?id=1181&p=.htm
  7. Hornaday, Ann (17 May 2002). "'About a Boy': A Rake's Amusingly Slow Progress". The Washington Post. p. C01. Retrieved 29 September 2007.
  8. Peter, Travers (6 June 2002). "Reviews: About A Boy". Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone Australia. Retrieved 29 September 2007.
  9. Ebert, Roger (17 May 2002). "Movie Reviews: About A Boy". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 29 September 2007.
  10. "Hugh Grant Film Actor, Comedy". GQ. November 2002. p. 325.
  11. Sarris, Andrew (26 May 2002). "Old Dog Loves New Trick, A Ploy for Seducing Singletons". The New York Observer. New York Observer. Retrieved 29 September 2007.
  12. Gleiberman, Owen (15 May 2002). "Review: About A Boy". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
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