Ira Wohl on Best Boy

“I can't even say that Best Boy started out to be a film. It didn't. It began as my attempt to give Philly a hand in becoming more independent, so that when his parents were gone he would be able to find his place in the world.

“Philly's parents, especially his mother, were insecure about this. After all, everything they had previously gotten in the way of feedback from the outside world had always been negative. Ultimately, they came to believe that the only truly safe place for Philly was at home with them. Eventually, though, because they trusted me, they were willing to at least give it a try.

“My first goal was to clarify Philly's diagnosis, understand what his deficits were, and determine what kind of potential he had for leading an independent existence. I found a sympathetic neurologist who agreed to examine Philly. We set an appointment, and Philly's future was set in motion.

“Given that I had been pursuing a career as a documentary filmmaker, it occurred to me just two days before the neurological assessment that the exam might be something interesting to film. I hurriedly put together a very small crew, and the filming took place.

“By the end of the first day of filming, it was clear to me that something important had taken place on film. In fact, the whole crew felt that way. 

“After that first day, I made a commitment to continue filming Philly's progress for as long as it was feasible to do so. Much to my surprise, that process and the filming took four years. At the end of those four years, Philly moved into a group home, where he would live for the rest of his life. But, even then, I didn't quite realize the significance of what had taken place.

“Being so close to it, I had failed to see the way in which Philly's progress had impacted the relationships of everyone in the family. Philly's parents Max and Pearl had, in effect, been living with a five-year-old child for 50 years. Now, suddenly, he was growing up, and for them, that growth was taking place at a dizzying pace.

“After the death of her husband two years earlier, I can’t ever remember seeing greater courage or generosity than Aunt Pearl's willingness to allow Philly to move to his new home. She chose what was best for Philly even though that meant that he would be without her protection—and she would be alone—for the first time in more than 50 years.”

--Ira Wohl