The Boy Who Could Fly is a 1986 American comedy-drama film written & directed by Nick Castle, starring Lucy Deakins, Jay Underwood, Fred Savage, Bonnie Bedelia, Colleen Dewhurst and Fred Gwynne. It also starred Mindy Cohn (from the NBC sitcom "The Facts of Life"), Louise Fletcher and Jason Priestley (of "Beverly Hills, 90210" fame in his first film role).

The movie was released on September 26, 1986 by 20th Century Fox and produced by Lorimar Productions.

Plot[edit | edit source]

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

Milly Michaelson, a 14-year-old girl moves into a new suburban home with her mother Charlene and 8-year-old brother, Louis after her father dies.

Milly befriends her new neighbor Geneva, but she and Louis (Savage) have difficulty adjusting to their new schools while Charlene copes with being demoted at work and is unable to learn how to use a computer & Louis is dealing with bullies down the street who won't let him get around the block.

During the first night at the house, Charlene tells Milly she will need her help to make this work. As Milly returns to her bedroom and is talking to her pet bird, she sees something flying past the window, but when she goes to look, she doesn't see anything.

Milly and Geneva observe a boy who lives next door to hernamed Eric Gibb, who is autistic and lives with his alcoholic uncle Hugo. Eric has never spoken a word in his life, doesn't like to be around people and also exhibits bizarre behavior related to flying ( such as balancing on the roof of his house with his arms spread out like an airplane).

Milly learns that Eric's parents had been killed in a plane crash and that somehow, in the instant of their death, he knew about it and did the only thing he could think of to try to save them which was to become an airplane.

Later that night, Milly and her family watch as Eric (along with Milly's teacher, Mrs. Sherman) and three adults appear outside with Eric, who is in a straitjacket and being restrained by two men with Mrs. Sherman arguing with a woman there about what is best for Eric. Milly later reveals to Geneva one night when Milly's mother is out for the evening that she finds Eric attractive.

Even though Eric can't communicate with anyone, he starts reacting to Milly by first mimicking her movements and facial expressions. Mrs. Sherman observes this interaction and asks Milly to keep an eye on Eric, explaining that due to Uncle Hugo's drinking, he is at risk of being taken away by authorities and placed in a hospital & also mentioned that when Eric was taken away before, he became so sick, he almost died.

During the school year, Milly works with Eric and she takes notes on his progress, which is slow at first, but she is excited when Eric smiles on his own instead of copying her own smile. Eric doesn't do anything when Milly throws balls to him, but one day , he spontaneously reaches out and catches a stray baseball flying toward Milly's head.

However, strange occurrences (such as Eric's apparent ability to appear in his own window one instant and in Milly's the next without any link between their homes) begin to make Milly question reality and in her notes, she wonders whether Eric is becoming more like her or if it's the other way around.

On a school field trip (with no one present except Eric) Milly falls off a bridge while trying to pick a rose and is knocked unconscious. She dreams that she wakes up in the hospital with Eric sitting on the windowsill.

After ahavingconversation with him (albeit wordless on Eric's part), she becomes convinced he can fly. Eric gives her the rose she was trying to reach and then, taking her hand, he leads her out of the window and the two of them begin flying. They watch a fireworks display from a cloud before they share a kiss and return to the hospital window.

After watching Eric fly off, Milly's dream becomes a nightmare as she sees her father in a hospital bed deceased with a girl called Mona (who Milly told to throw a volleyball at her head earlier) throwing a volleyball at her which knocks her out of the window.

Then, Milly wakes up in a hospital and tells her mother how Eric can fly. When Milly talks to a shrink named Dr. Grenader and explains to her that Eric caught her as she only has a concussion and no serious injuries. However, Dr. Grenader gives a more logical explanation and explains to Milly that her belief that Eric can fly is possibly due to stress caused by the death of her father as he died from cancer.

After coming home from the hospital, Milly notices the rose on her windowsill and now becomes truly convinced that Eric can fly. When she shouts to Uncle Hugo about Eric's whereabouts, he says the institute took Eric him away because Hugo was found drunk again.

Despite the efforts of Milly and her family, they are not allowed to see Eric when they visit the institute. As they leave due to not been allowed in, Eric attempts to force the window open and is restrained by two men who try to sedate him. Meanwhile, another attempt by Louis to get around the block fails as the bullies destroy his tricycle apart and to make matters worse, his dog Max is hit by a passing car and taken to an animal hospital.

Later that evening, Milly thinks she spots Eric on his roof during a thunderstorm and after climbing into the attic, she finds Eric (who is shivering from the cold and still wearing a strait-jacket) after he manages to somehow escape the institute. As Milly helps him, Eric pulls out a box and from within it, he takes out a ring which he gives to her.

When the authorities arrive at Eric's house the next day, Milly sneaks him out and they are chased by the police to the roof of the school during a carnival. Eric turns to Milly and speaks her name (which is the first word that has spoken thus far)

Milly asks Eric if he really can fly; he smiles and nods his head. He holds her hand and they fall off the building. Just before they hit the ground, Milly and Eric begin flying in plain view of the crowd around the carnival which follows them down the streets of their town, shocking Charlene, Louis, Geneva and Uncle Hugo.

Eric brings Milly to her own window, tells her he loves her, and kisses her before saying goodbye and flies away. Milly is heartbroken, but she realizes why Eric had to leave. Over the following weeks, spectators, policemen and scientists mob the town, looking for an explanation and taking all of Eric's belongings away to be analyzed. Milly speculates that Eric too would have been taken by scientists had he remained.

It is later revealed that Milly's father knew he had cancer, but he kept it a secret from his family because he did not want them to worry and instead of getting treatment, he said goodbye and committed suicide. His refusal to fight for his life left the Michaelsons feeling helpless and hopeless, but Eric's ability to fly shows them that anything is possible if you believe.

Unlike Milly's father, Eric's uncle and the remaining Michaelsons refuse to give up: Eric's uncle beats his drinking problem and gets an excellent job; the Michaelson's dog Max gets better; Louis dominates the bullies down the street (with some help from Max); Charlene masters the computer at work; and Milly regains interest in her life and relationships with those around her.

The film ends with Milly looking out the window waiting for Eric and as the sun sets, she throws a paper airplane out of the window which flies ever upward.

Cast[edit | edit source]

  • Lucy Deakins as Milly Michaelson
  • Jay Underwood as Eric Gibb
  • Bonnie Bedelia as Charlene Michaelson
  • Fred Savage as Louis Michaelson
  • Fred Gwynne as Hugo Gibb
  • Colleen Dewhurst as Mrs. Sherman
  • Janet MacLachlan as Mrs. D'Gregario
  • Mindy Cohn as Geneva Goodman
  • Jason Priestley as Gary
  • Cameron Bancroft as Joe
  • Louise Fletcher as Dr. Grenader

Production[edit | edit source]

"The Boy Who Could Fly" was filmed from May 5, 1985 until August of 1985. It was primarily filmed in British Columbia, Canada.

Nick Castle has cited Dumbo as the primary inspiration for making the movie.

Box Office[edit | edit source]

The movie was first given a limited release on August 15, 1986 which grossed $204,641 during its opening weekend.

After its wide theatrical release, it opened at #4 at the box office, grossing $1,606,156 during its opening weekend and $2,714,323 in Australia.

Domestically, "The Boy Who Could Fly" grossed $7,177,431.

Critical Reception[edit | edit source]

The movie currently holds a 71% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Richard Harrington of the Washington Post wrote in his review: "You don't have to be young or old to enjoy it this lovely, engaging film, just open-minded, or at least bighearted. At once funny, sad, moving, inspirational and revealing, "The Boy Who Could Fly" suspends the law of emotional gravity, soaring at just the right moments."

He also praised the young actors' performance in the film, saying: "[Lucy] Deakins, who really is 14, is engaging and believable as Milly -- sensitive, shy, confused and reluctantly growing into her beauty. [Jay] Underwood, 16, is wonderfully controlled as the autistic Eric. At first his face is as slack as his emotions, yet despite being wordless, he still conveys a haunted inner self."

Roger Ebert gave the film a rating of three stars out of four, concluding in his review: "Movies like this can be insufferable if they lay it on too thick. "The Boy Who Can Fly" finds just about the right balance between its sunny message and the heartbreak that's always threatening to prevail."

Common Sense Media described it as "A charming fantasy with a lot of heart."

Accolades[edit | edit source]

Saturn Awards

  • Best Fantasy Film (won)
  • Best Performance by a Younger Actor: Lucy Deakins and Jay Underwood (nominated)
  • Best Writing: Nick Castle (nominated)

1987 Young Artist Awards

  • Exceptional Performance by a Young Actor, Supporting Role, Feature Film - Comedy, Fantasy or Drama: Fred Savage (won)
  • Exceptional Feature Film - Family Entertainment - Fantasy or Comedy (nominated)
  • Exceptional Performance by a Young Actress Starring in a Feature Film - Comedy or Drama: Lucy Deakins (nominated)

Trailer[edit | edit source]


The Boy Who Could Fly (1986) Trailer

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