The movie is set in Canada and shot in Vancouver, B.C., Calgary and Linden, Alberta, and the road between. It can be qualified as a road movie and as a drama focusing on characters influenced by their cultural milieu and by each other. The movie has a simple story and is still complex in its plot development as well as in the pace of plot revelations. The audience never stops learning about the two main characters, their individual stories and their background, which provides the movie with tremendous quality and causes curiosity that makes the audience dive into the story and stay alert.
The main protagonist is Nathan, played by newcomer Branden Nadon. We are introduced to him as he sells his body on his 14th birthday. These very subtle scenes at the beginning make us aware of how desperate this young boy is. He is a hustler, but still a child. We get a very good impression of his life a bleak, exploited life without much room for dreams and no way out. Then we are introduced to his family. He has no father and his mother is a drug addict. She dies right at the beginning due to an overdose, which leaves Nathan orphaned and totally isolated.
The second main character is a rough and mysterious man named Boon Palmer (played by Dylan Walsh), a man we do not know anything about. Apparently he has a questionable past as some kind of criminal. All we know is that he is up to something and violent if challenged.
Nathan is on the road, running away from the social services that would take him in, heading towards Vancouver, when he encounters Boon in a road pub. He associates with him and manages to make the taciturn man give him a ride to the city. On their way they stop in a motel in a small town, where Boon grew up and where he has to settle something. It becomes clear from the very beginning of their traveling companionship that Nathan sees much more than a temporary ride in Boon, but pins all his hopes on him. He does everything to please the man, makes their breakfast and as some subtle hints reveal would not mind sleeping in the same bed with him.
Once in the small town, we find out some interesting bits and pieces about Boon's past, about his imperious father, about his old flame and his life twenty years ago. We still do not know who Boon is today, but we get a clearer idea of his roots and find out that he is indeed a rather likable person, which we could not expect right from the beginning. The growing relationship between Boon and Nathan is characterized by frictions, but still slowly growing in depth. Boon renews a sexual affair with his old flame while Nathan associates with some local lads.
The movie's climax is emotionally stirring and intriguingly played by the two leading characters. Nathan breaks away as Boon neglects his love and his yearning for paternal appreciation. Boon has to finish his job in Vancouver, and there he sees how Nathan offers himself to a client. He follows them and rushes into the hotel room as Nathan is about to be sexually harassed. Boon hugs Nathan, and the emotional turmoil makes the boy break down and cry. As they leave the hotel, we find out that Boon is in fact an undercover cop something we did not know throughout the entire movie. They drive back to the small town, as it seems happily united.
This last aspect is probably slightly, just slightly overdone and a bit corny. The rest of the movie is profoundly authentic and smashing in its sincere character portrayal of a strange man and a young hustler who help each other out of their bleak lives. These two characters carry complex problems and their interaction makes up the emotional thrill of the whole production. The soundtrack is flawless and the camera work lives up to the decisive moments. The other characters are fairly flat, but this is okay here, as the two protagonists carry the burden and define the pace and the quality of the plot development.
I give Jet Boy a 9 because it handles a very sensitive issue child prostitution frankly and without corny stereotypes. It furthermore delivers a fine character portrayal and focuses on a very strong father-son aspect, set in a cultural stratum in which hope and trust are hard to find and even harder to maintain. The two leading actors are just brilliant, and thus Jet Boy is an authentic Canadian movie, a wonderful portrayal of genuine human struggles