The Movie Plot for "This Boy's Life"

by Harrison Pennybaker

"This Boy's Life" was released in 1993. It stars Robert De Niro, Ellen Barkin and Leonardo DiCaprio. The film is based on the memoir of Tobias Wolff, which is also called "This Boy's Life." The film recounts the life of a precocious (but rebellious) teenager during the 1950s, and it details Wolff's relationship with his abusive stepfather.

Settling Down

The film begins with Caroline Wolff (Ellen Barkin) looking to establish normal, quiet lifestyle. Caroline and her son Toby (Leonardo DiCaprio) move around, looking for a place to call home. Caroline is also seeking a husband to help her raise her son. The two eventually settle in Seattle, Washington, and things seem to improve -- Caroline's work life gets better and Toby settles down at a local school.

Meeting Dwight

Caroline soon meets Dwight (Robert De Niro) a man she quickly takes to and thinks is a good match for her and her son. Caroline is surprised and impressed by her luck at finding Dwight, but Toby has his doubts. While his mother is away, Toby spends time alone with Dwight and discovers that his actual personality is not what he and his mother thought it was. Dwight becomes abusive with Toby, constantly chastising him verbally and berating him in an attempt to "make him a man."

The Real Dwight

Over time, Caroline comes to realize the truth about Dwight's personality and his parenting methods. Dwight attempts to raise Toby with the aim of developing him into a well-adjusted adult, but he is emotionally and physically abusive. Dwight's domineering personality soon spreads to his treatment of Caroline as well. Despite the flaws in Dwight's character, Caroline stays with him in the hopes that things will work out for the best for her and her son.

The Conclusion

While Caroline stays with Dwight, Toby begins to rebel against his authority and seeks to leave the family. He tries and fails to win a scholarship to leave for school in the East. He then attempts to falsify his grades in order to improve his chances. Finally, Toby succeeds and is accepted to a school in Pennsylvania with a scholarship. In the end, Caroline decides to leave Dwight as well -- his abuse has become too much to bear. The film ends with the two leaving the city and Dwight behind.