Clive Owen's rough-hewn, just-this-side-of-caveman features don't do emotion easily, which sets his breakdown moments far apart from the usual A-lister histrionics. Owen's granite tendencies prove to be the saving grace of The Boys Are Back, a mawkish assortment of life lessons that its star more or less single-handedly keeps from devolving into a mass of gorgeously lit, honey-colored sog.

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Adapted from Simon Carr's memoir, the story follows a boozy, globe-trotting sportswriter whose idyllic life in the Australian countryside crumbles when his wife (Laura Fraser, luminous in her handful of scenes) succumbs to cancer, leaving him to deal with their quasi-feral 5-year-old son. Matters are not helped—or are they?—by the unexpected arrival of a neglected teenage son from a previous London marriage.

Cookie-cutter predictable as the results may be, they do occasionally hit the mark, with the burgeoning interaction between the ill-equipped Owen and his two refreshingly nonidealized sons conjuring up a few undeniable lumps in the throat. The problems mainly arise with the material's handling by director Scott Hicks (Shine, Snow Falling on Cedars), a filmmaker whose visual gifts continue to overpower his storytelling abilities. Utilizing an apparently endless supply of sun-dappled landscapes and a lovely, noodling soundtrack full to bursting with Sigur Rós songs, Hicks presents an eye-melting rendering of his native South Australia—so ravishing, actually, that it severely diminishes the emotional beats of the narrative. How mopey can you be when you've got wallabies on your veranda?