I had the opposite reaction. I thought the entire back-end was ridiculously manipulative.
Sexual awakenings and the yearning for a place to call home form the crux of this films peddling of maudlin adolescent nostalgia. If the December Boys had found itself being pruned of its prattle, maybe the coming-of-age blueprint set in the 1960s Australian seaside would have been efficient, perhaps even charming. As it were, the films frustrating penchant for overly wistful, precious storytelling encumbers its December-born orphans from being anything more than self-pitying and depressive.
Harry Potter! As youve never seen him could have been the films de facto tagline, if it wasnt just so egregiously tacky. So aware of its marketing import, Daniel Radcliffes much-ado-about-nothing onscreen deflowering is self-consciously acted upon, a performance riding on perception, but in the process rendering its key scene unremarkable to the films few overriding semblances of a conflicted juvenile psyche. Further obfuscating its genuine moments of emotional clarity, are its exaggerated religious overtones and witless representations of sexual desire. Visions from the Virgin Mary and brazen young women (also hinting at the films cavalier idealisations of females) intermittently litter the aching sense of longing that its best scenes imply.
The four-strong pack of orphans that are sent to live with a retired naval officer and his wife for the summer in Lady Star Cove is led by the oldest, Maps (Radcliffe), and his precocious younger lieutenant as well as the films wizened narrator, Misty (Lee Cormie). Away from the reality of the convent, they begin to existentialise their dilemmas being raised without a family or even without a core sense of identity. This doesnt worry Maps as much as it does Misty, even though the age difference between them span just a few years, it does relate considerably in terms of any impending adoption or more pointedly, the burgeoning transition into adulthood during this short period of time.
Though partly concerned with Maps's escalated coming-of-age during this eventful summer, December Boys expands its purview to include a more disquietingly bizarre imagining of magical-realist visions by seer-like Misty a decision that ironically amplifies the familiar skew of the rest of its proceedings. Yet more enduring than its rather slushy portrayal of maturation is the films final images, a stamp that reinforces its own commitment to be as conventional and manipulatively cloying as it can possibly hope to be.