Is This Boy’s life a true story?

Is This Boy’s life a true story?

Movies have been evolving in recent times, and there are so many genres that are designed to capture a specific set of audiences. Be it action, horror, romance, drama, thrillers, the movies were made to entertain people. But, there were also two genres of movies that deviated from imaginative and fantasy storytelling towards real stories. They are documentaries and movies that are based on real stories. Read more to know is this boy’s life a true story or not?

While they both essentially mean the same, it is important to know the difference between the two movies. Documentaries, as the name suggests, document exactly a real-time event, or someone’s life, and portray it as such, without moderating or changing the story. Movies that are based on true stories, on the other hand, like the Conjuring horror series, need not essentially document the entire story. They often add bits and pieces of drama, fake sequences to make it more like a movie to entertain, not to educate as in documentaries.

One such movie is “This boy’s life”. This movie revolves around a teenage boy and the struggles he has with his stepfather. In this article, we will look more into the story, the similarities between the movie and real life, and the plot and actors.

What was the movie based on?

  • Unlike many movies, which draw inspiration from real persons narrating, or from documentaries, This Boy’s life was based on a memoir written by Tobias Wolff, who is the main focus of the story. 
  • A memoir basically means the memories of the author. The author recollects his or her life and reproduces it in the form of words
  • The movie revolves around the main character Tobias Wolff, called Toby in this movie

What is the gist of the movie?

  1. The movie starts off with Toby Wolff and his mother looking for a father figure, who can provide them with a home and food.
  2. They meet someone who fits their conditions, called Dwight Hansen. But, his true colors are eventually revealed, as he begins to mistreat Toby when his mother is not around
  3. Toby decides to move out of the house and live with his brother. He and his friend prepare fake school records in the hopes of getting a scholarship.
  4. Toby eventually gets a seat at the Hill School in Pennsylvania. Dwight once again engages in a verbal fight against Toby, to which his mother Caroline defends Toby, and they both, once and for all, move away from Dwight.

How accurate is the movie compared to the books?

Now comes the question of how accurate the movie is. We do know that the movie is based on a memoir. This Boy’s life stands out for being one of the most accurate inspirational movies. Except for individual scenes, most parts of the movie hold true to the memoir. The film was praised for capturing the essence of the books and portraying the emotional sequences in the best manner possible. 

What do the public and critics think of the movie?

Let us forget the fact that this movie was based on an autobiography. Even as a standalone movie, this was praised by many for the exceptional screenplay, direction, and right actor choices. In this film, 

  • Leonardo Di Caprio plays Toby
  • Robert De Niro plays Dwight
  • Ellen Barkin as Caroline

All of these actors, and the supporting actors as well, did justice to the roles they were given. Leonardo excellently portrays a young and mischievous Toby, who likes to prank, steal, and say lies. Ellen Barkin also does justice to the role as the mother of Toby. But, the one who was praised by fans and critics alike was De Niro. His portrayal of the stepfather Dwight, who is abusive, is full of character and was seen as one of the best characters he has ever played.

The film was well-received by everyone and has a rating of 7.3 from IMDB, 76% in Rotten Tomatoes, and 60% in Metacritic ratings. 

Though receiving overall positive responses, and the movie equipped with talented actors and a great screenplay and direction, the movie did not do well at the box office. It only managed to acquire $4.1mn in the box office, which was considered less compared to other movies of the generation that did well.


An emotional drama, great acting, compelling story, and above all, relatable to many young Americans, This Boy’s life not only lived up to the expectations of the book but also won as a movie. Though the movie did not do great at the box office, it appealed to many and gave justice to the real characters.

Here are some FAQs

  1. When did the film release?

The film was released in 1993. It starred Leonardo Di Caprio as Toby and Robert Di Niro as the stepfather Dwight. The film was directed by Michael Caton-Jones and was an inspiration from the memoir of Tobias Wolff.

  1. Is the movie a true story?

Yes. The movie was based on true stories, and the everyday life of Tobias Wolff, and was taken from his memoir. Except for a few scenes, the movie stays very close to real-life events experienced by the author.

  1. What are some interesting facts about the movie?
  • It was the first time that Leonardo Di Caprio and Robert Di Niro collaborated in a movie together
  • The film also featured Toby Maguire. It was also the first time that Toby Maguire and Robert Di Niro collaborated in a movie.
  • While filming, Leonardo Di Caprio grew taller, and this forced him to slouch in several scenes acting next to Robert Di Niro. 
  • Tobias Wolff’s mother’s real name is Rosemary, but in the film, she was named Caroline.
  • The Hill school portrayed in the movie is real and exists in Pennsylvania.
  1. Is the book available?

Yes. The book is available for purchase from retail stores as well as online stores such as Amazon.

  1. Where can I watch the movie?

The movie can be watched from streaming platforms like Amazon Prime and rented or bought from Youtube and other renting platforms. 

Is This Boy’s life a true story?

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