The four orphaned protagonists of December Boys
– Maps (Radcliffe, in his first post-Harry Potter
film role), Misty (Cormie), Sparks (Byers), and Spit (Fraser) – have nicknames that, at the very least, should guarantee them entrée into the more onomatopoeic realms, somewhere down the timeline of mid-Nineties Britpop (possibly as roadies for Supergrass). Extrapolating character arcs from names alone gives us, let's see, Maps as the eternally misguided tour-lorry driver, Misty as the gender-confused guitar tech prone to lager-sozzled bouts of hormone-driven weepiness, Sparks as the prepsychotic firebug who eventually burns down the Hammersmith Odeon, and Spit as the secret reincarnation of Sid Vicious' tongue, who gives it all up to teach Keats at Cambridge before choking to death at a midnight chippie 20 years down the line. Sounds bang-on, but sadly, this isn't that story at all. Instead, December Boys
follows these four parentless lads (all of whom have birthdays in December, hence the title) from their pleasant, nun-run orphanage to the southern coast of Australia, where they spend a week or two of officially sanctioned holiday (time passes oddly in this film when it passes at all) as the guests of a nautical-mad husband and wife (Thompson and McQuade) and the various side characters who make up a tiny, overly dotty seaside nonresort. Maps, as befits a character played by an actor whose most recent role involved exploding wands, straightaway loses his virginity to a seaside siren by the name of Lucy (the devastatingly winsome Palmer) before blowing a gasket when she ups and vanishes in the third act. "Everyone leaves!" he rails in fit of pique, which is an entirely appropriate reaction given what poor Maps must have imagined the rest of this particular December held in store for him. It's also, basically, the pleasant but pedestrian December Boys
' none-too-subtle message: Everyone leaves, yes, except your friends who will stick by you no matter what. Until you form that band and catch Sparks lighting your best girl's fire, so to speak.