"A Cherokee boy is a
hemophiliac in a culture obsessed with blood identity": that's the tagline of The
Doe Boy, and it suggests a potentially interesting story. The reality of
the story is more prosaic, however. Young Hunter Kirk (James Duval) is hemophiliac,
to be sure, but any other socially-acceptable disease would have worked in its
place, because the point is simply that he can't do everything that most boys
do. In particular, he can't do "manly" things with his father, like work on the
truck or go hunting. The potent possibilities of blood as a symbol are
essentially wasted, as Hunter's story would not be substantially different if
he were wheelchair-bound, for instance.
What, then, is Hunter's story?
He's a petulant, dissatisfied, angst-ridden teenager with an overprotective
mother and a father who gets on his case too much. For anyone who spends any
time around teenagers, this is hardly news; it's a difficult age for a young
man or woman in any culture. What makes Hunter's transition to adulthood worthy
of our interest?
The film does have a certain
potential to explore the intersection of personal identity and culture. An
occasional voiceover narration from Hunter's grandfather tells Hunter's story
as if it were a Native American myth, placing his struggle in a timeless
context, but the Cherokee culture that should be at the center of the film is
sidelined. At one point Hunter refers to hemophilia as a "white man's disease,"
as if blaming his non-Cherokee father for its occurrence in him, but for the most
part the story could be taking place in any rural district of the United States
among any group of people.
One of the film's pitfalls is
its reliance on an assumed subtext about hunting, an activity that is central
to the story and the characters. The various people in the film, from Hunter,
his father, and his grandfather to Hunter's friends and neighbors, are all
either avid deer hunters or are fascinated by the subject. It's obviously an
important element in their lives... but the significance of the hunt to their
society is never really brought out. For me personally, the hunt just looked
like a display of machismo; it seems clear that the director intended it to be
both more profound and more complex, but too much of the canvas is left blank,
and any deeper meaning is difficult to find.
The ending of the film makes a
creditable effort to pull the various thematic threads together, showing how
Hunter's steps toward independence give him the opportunity to accept his past,
and his family, and move on toward a life of his own. Still, I didn't feel that
The Doe Boy made the necessary connections between storyline, theme, and
character to make the story truly engaging.
The Doe Boy is presented
in an attractive anamorphic widescreen transfer that preserves the film's
original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. There's some mild edge enhancement, resulting in
a slight blurring of some detail, but on the whole it's a clean-looking image,
with only a faint hint of noise or print flaws. Colors are strong and vibrant, and
the nature scenes in particular look lovely.
The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack on The
Doe Boy offers a solid audio experience. Dialogue and sound effects are
clear and clean-sounding, though there's essentially no use of the surround
channels. Viewers should note that the default audio setting is actually Dolby
2.0; to play the film with the 5.1 soundtrack it's necessary to go to the audio
The Doe Boy DVD includes
a trailer for the film and filmographies for the principal actors, along with a
set of weblinks.
The Doe Boy is
watchable, but it never reached me on any level beyond the surface events. It
might be worth a rental for anyone who is familiar with the cultures presented
in the story; the good DVD transfer makes it pleasant to watch from the audio
and video perspective.