Mixed or average reviews - based on 16 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 16
  2. Negative: 0 out of 16
  1. Reviewed by: Terrence Rafferty
    Barkin and DiCaprio are sensational. Every time De Niro threatens to take over the picture, they snatch our attention right back, and always with something casual: a look or a gesture that conveys how thoroughly this mother and son understand each other.
  2. 88
    The movie is successful largely because [DiCaprio] is a good enough actor to hold his own in his scenes with De Niro, so that the movie remains his story, and isn't upstaged by the loathsome but colorful Dwight.
  3. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    In capturing the compelling battle between a boy and his abusive stepfather, director Michael Caton-Jones cannily avoids obvious sentimentality, opting to let a rather brutal story tell itself.
  4. He [Caton-Jones] has made the film all of a piece, making sure that the three lead performances complement rather than overwhelm each other. [9 Apr 1993, p.F1]
  5. 75
    The film is well-paced and expertly edited, allowing scenes to flow naturally into one another.
  6. 70
    Barkin's succulence and De Niro's showboating lend sizzle and ferocity to the proceedings, but the film draws its poignancy from 18-year-old DiCaprio's performance.
  7. Reviewed by: Angie Errigo
    Despite its admirable strengths and the fact of it being a true story, there is somehow a failure to completely connect with the fierce boy, giving his unhappy and alienating youth an unfortunate air of unreality.
  8. The film recreates Toby and Caroline's aimlessness, but without appearing to understand it enough to make it as moving and important as it ought to be.
  9. The leads work overtime to make their characters and their relationships pungent, believable, and moving (though with regard to the rest of the cast, the movie seems less focused and confident).
  10. 50
    De Niro's decision to make Dwight a loony from the get-go throws the delicate symmetry of the story out of whack.
  11. The process of remembering that drives the book is gone from the film, boiled away until all that's left is the mundane residue of memory - mere incidents strung together as plot.
  12. Director Caton-Jones ("Scandal", "Memphis Belle") once again shows his flair for period detail though he never here exerts his grip on the human drama.
  13. For This Boy's Life to work as ominous domestic drama, it's essential that we see Dwight as a flesh-and-blood monster. De Niro, unfortunately, just seems to be reveling in the chance to play another viciously demented freak, like Cape Fear's Max Cady.
  14. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    De Niro's is a domineering performance, a star turn that is both comic and menacing, but it unbalances Wolff's story.
  15. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Unfortunately, after a relatively promising warmup, pic actually proceeds to flatten out the characters in the latter sections and to make them less dimensional and interesting than they initially seemed.
  16. It never attains full dimension. It pursues the De Niro-DiCaprio war so singlemindedly, everything else is left high and dry.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 12 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 1
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 1
  3. Negative: 0 out of 1
  1. Mar 13, 2013
    It's great that i'm the first user to review this masterpiece. The acting is amazing, the story is great and realistic. It's a must watch for all DeNiro or DiCaprio fans and drama lovers. I still have the original VHS in my collection. My final score for "This Boy's Life" is 8/10 Full Review »