This Boy's Life (film)

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This Boy's Life
This Boys Life.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Caton-Jones
Produced byFitch Cady
Art Linson
Screenplay byRobert Getchell
Based onThis Boy's Life
by Tobias Wolff
Music byCarter Burwell
CinematographyDavid Watkin
Edited byJim Clark
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • April 9, 1993 (1993-04-09)
  • April 23, 1993 (1993-04-23)
Running time
114 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$4,104,962[1]

This Boy's Life is a 1993 American biographical drama film and adaptation of the memoir of the same name by American author Tobias Wolff. It is directed by Michael Caton-Jones and stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Tobias Wolff, Robert De Niro as stepfather Dwight Hansen, and Ellen Barkin as Toby's mother, Caroline. The film also features Chris Cooper, Carla Gugino, Eliza Dushku and Tobey Maguire.


In the 1950s, a nomadic and flaky Caroline Wolff wants to settle down, find a decent man, and provide a better home for herself and her son, Tobias "Toby" Wolff. When she moves to Seattle, Washington and meets Dwight Hansen, she thinks she has accomplished her goals. However, Dwight's true personality is revealed after Toby spends a few months separated from his mother and living with Dwight and his children in a small town in the North Cascades. Dwight seems to want to mold Toby into a better person, but his methods include emotional, verbal, and physical abuse.

The marriage proceeds, and Caroline recognizes Dwight's need to dominate everyone around him. She stays with Dwight, and several years of dysfunction ensue. During this time, Toby befriends a classmate named Arthur Gayle who is a misfit at school and ambiguously gay. Hoping to leave Concrete and live with his older brother Gregory (who has been living on the East Coast with their father), Toby decides to apply for scholarships at East Coast prep schools. Realizing that his grades are not good enough to get him accepted at these schools, Toby plans to submit falsified records. Meanwhile, the friendship between Arthur and Toby becomes strained when Arthur accuses Toby of behaving more and more like Dwight. Arthur helps his friend get the papers he needs to falsify his grade records, and Toby submits his prep-school applications. After numerous rejections, he is accepted by The Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia with a full scholarship.

Later, Caroline defends Toby from Dwight during a physically violent argument; they both leave Dwight and the town of Concrete.

(Note: The real Dwight died in 1992. Caroline (Rosemary Wolff) remarried and moved to Florida. Arthur Gayle left Concrete and became a successful businessman in Italy. Dwight's children all married and stayed in Seattle. Toby and his brother Geoffrey both became noted writers.)



Largely filmed in the state of Washington, the town of Concrete, Washington (where Tobias Wolff's teen years were spent with his mother and stepfather, Dwight), was transformed to its 1950s appearance for a realistic feel. Many of the town's citizens were used as extras, and all external scenes in Concrete (and some internal scenes, as well) were shot in and around the town, including the former elementary school buildings and the still-active Concrete High School building. Parts of the film were also shot in the La Sal Mountains in Utah.[2]


Box office[edit]

The film was released in limited release on April 9, 1993, and earned $74,425 that weekend;[3] upon its wide release on April 23, the film opened at #10 at the box office and grossed $1,519,678.[4] The film would end with a domestic gross of $4,104,962.[1]

Critical reception[edit]

The film received mostly positive reviews; review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 76% 'Fresh' rating from 37 critics, with an average rating of 6.4/10. The site's consensus states: "A harrowing, moving drama about a young boy, his single mother, and his abusive stepfather, This Boy's Life benefits from its terrific cast, and features a breakout performance from a young Leonardo DiCaprio."[5] On Metacritic, where they give a 'normalized' score, the film has a 60/100.[6]

Home media[edit]

This Boy's Life was released on DVD May 13, 2003.


The soundtrack of This Boy's Life used many songs from the 1950s and early 1960s. The main titles (filmed in Professor Valley, Utah) feature Frank Sinatra's version of "Let's Get Away from It All" from his 1958 album Come Fly with Me. Toby and his mother sing "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair" from the popular post-war musical South Pacific. However, most of the music reflects Toby's fondness for rock and roll and doo wop, including songs by Eddie Cochran, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, and Link Wray. Carter Burwell composed the film's pensive score, which featured New York guitarist Frederic Hand.


  1. ^ a b "This Boy's Life (1993)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
  2. ^ D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874.
  3. ^ This Boy's Life at Box Office Mojo.
  4. ^ This Boy's Life at Box Office Mojo.
  5. ^ This Boy's Life at Rotten Tomatoes
  6. ^ This Boy's Life at Metacritic

External links[edit]