“The Conrad Boys” (Newport Films) is a lovely and sweet movie that deals with the life of a 19 year old Asian American who raises his brother when his mom dies suddenly and unexpectedly. Directed by Justin Lo, Charlie (Lo) a cute teenager who finds himself alone in the world with Ben after his mother mysteriously dies from a pain while giving a massage. It is another low budget movie with big hopes and it fulfills many of them. Charlie loves history and was headed to college when his life comes apart and he voluntarily assumes the role of parenting. In doing so he becomes a prisoner of life by his own choice and cuts himself off from a social life. Finally after being convinced by a friend, he agrees to attend a party where he meets a handsome intellectual, Jordan (very effectively played by Nick Bartzen). The two become fast friends and ultimately lovers. Yet Jordan has problems; his past was a life of crime. Without announcing himself, Charlie’s abusive alcoholic father (Barry Shay) turns up and claims to have cleaned up his life and now wants to become a part of his sons’ lives. This brings a whole series of events into play. Justin Lo with his first film has made an auspicious entrance into the genre of gay film making and if this film is a sign of things to come, I think we can happily add him to our list of directors to watch.
The movie is not without its faults but all in all it is clever and endearing. Lo who directed the film also wrote it and stars in it as well.
The action takes place in Newport Beach and the major fault that I found here was that at times there were moments that dragged; a tighter script could have solved that problem easily. Cute Boo Boo Stewart as Charlie’s younger brother is wonderful and the supporting cast does an admirable job. But it is Nick Bartzen as Jordan who owns this movie. His characterization of the young drifter who writes poetry and is interested in Charlie is an amazing performance. Although his motives for befriending Charlie are unclear—we really don’t know if he is using Charlie so that he can have a place to live or whether he really cares for him—he is a young man doing an emotional acting job.
Charlie seems to have the weight of the world on his shoulders, he is a whiner and angry and seems to be frustrated all of the time. As attractive as he is to look at here were times that I felt like I just wanted to shake him and tell him to do something with his life. I suspect that with a little more experience, he will blossom into a good actor. He has major problems to deal with—parenting, his father and new feelings of love and being brought into a new world of melodrama by Jordan. Lo does manage, as director, to keep the film from sinking into sentimentality which it could easily have done. For whatever minuses I found here, I found twice as many pluses and it seems to me that we are in store for some really good things to come our way from Justin Lo.
“The Conrad Boys” should be watched and enjoyed. It is a tight and moving movie with just the right amount of sweetness and pathos. It may not make you weep but it will elicit a tear or two and that is plenty enough for me.