December Boys

Rated 3.0

Four boys from an Australian Catholic orphanage (Daniel Radcliffe, Lee Cormie, Christian Byers, James Fraser) get a real Christmas treat: a vacation by the sea with a devout older couple (Jack Thompson, Kris McQuade) and their open-hearted neighbors. Directed by Rod Hardy and written by Marc Rosenberg (from Michael Noonan’s novel), the film is standard coming-of-age stuff, spiced up by the unusual Down Under setting (Christmas is midsummer there) and leavened by honest, unaffected performances. It’s entertaining enough, calculatedly heartwarming but cheerful without being saccharine, with errant touches of a sort of magic realism. The movie’s grasp of time is a bit off: it’s set in the early 1970s, when three of the boys are 11 or 12, then they’re shown to be elderly and doddering in a present-day epilogue.