Filmmaker Ira Wohl has a mentally retarded cousin, Philly. At
a family reunion one year, he realized that Philly's parents still take
care of his every need, even though they are in their 70's and Philly is
over 50. Realizing that someday Philly wouldn't have his parents
to rely on, Ira convinces his aunt and uncle to help train Philly to be
more independent. Ira filmed his cousin attempts to become more self-reliant
and the result was the Academy Award winning film, Best Boy (1979.)
Philly cannot, and will never be able to live by himself. He
has the mental capacity of a five year old. He is easily excited,
and doesn't understand a lot of what goes on around him. His father
shaves him every morning, and he totally relies on his parents for his
every need. Except for a short time when he was in an institution,
a bad experience for all involved, Philly had never been away from his
family. When he is evaluated at the beginning of the movie, Philly
doesn't know how old he is or the difference between up and down.
He can't count to ten. His journey to being more independent will
not be easy.
His parents enroll him in a training center where he spend the days
learning simple life skills like how to cross the street or how to buy
food at a restaurant. He slowly learns to do simple things, and even
manages to buy an ice cream sandwich by himself. But Philly's growth
is as hard for his parents as it is for him. They aren't used to
being away from him, and it is a hard adjustment for them too.
This is a very touching and heartwarming film. You can see the
way that Philly's condition has worn his parents down. Taking care
of their son day in and day out has adversely affected both of his parents,
but they still love him dearly. Phillip's cheerful and upbeat attitude
is infectious, and this movie is not sad and depressing, just the opposite;
Philly's journey to becoming more self-reliant is a moving and enlightening
experience. This movie is a strong argument for mainstreaming the
The film has a two channel mono soundtrack with no subtitles available.
The sound is flat and thin, but that is to be expected with a 25-year-old
documentary. Most of the dialog is easy to understand, though sometimes
the background noises get in the way. This is an acceptable sounding
The full frame video looks like it is a blow up from a 16mm print.
It is grainy and a little soft, with a few specks and other minor print
damage. The colors are a little muted, but not to a large extent.
Some of the scenes are a little dark. Still, the film looks nice
when you take into account its age and the conditions that it was filmed
This disc also included a text piece about the filmmaker, along with
text descriptions and a couple of trailers to some of Docurama's other
The biggest extra though is the full-length sequel to Best Boy:
Best Man. This film was made 20 years later, and in it you get
to see how Philly has fared in the intervening years. With both of
his parents gone, Philly is living in a group home for adult with mental
handicaps, which is quite nice. Phillip is still his happy and upbeat,
and his sister Fran visits him often. Philly's cousin (filmmaker
Ira Wohl) decides to give the now 72-year-old Philly a Bar Mitzvah.
The film chronicles Philly's preparations for this passage into manhood.
While this film is interesting, it does not have the emotional punch
that Best Boy has. The film seems less focused, and it is
obvious that Wohl is trying to catch lightning in a bottle a second time.
Seen after Best Boy, this movie is a nice update, but it does not
stand well on its own.
This was a good set. Though I was disappointed in the sequel,
Best Man, watching the original film from 1979 is an enriching and
heartwarming experience. It is a well-constructed documentary that
is definitely recommended.