Friday, 14 September 2018

Handsome Devil. (Movie Review)

Director and Writer John Butler injects his own highly personal take with lashings of Irish humour and a gutsy helping of genuine heart and emotion.

Handsome Devil - Movie Review

Handsome Devil, released in April 2017 centres on an ostracised teenager Ned (Fionn O'Shea) at a rugby-obsessed all boys boarding school in Ireland whose new roommate Conor (Nicholas Galitzine) is the school's new rugby star-player. The two form an unlikely friendship until it is tested by those around them. RTE1 showed the movie during the week, it’s also available on DVD and even Netflix – so you should have no problem getting your hands on it.

Apart from the fact the story is a little clichéd – boys boarding school, indifferent parents, the young gay boy being bullied, the courageous English teacher (channelling Robin Williams in the Dead Poets Society) it is a realistic representation of school life in an all boys secondary school. (That’s from age 12-18 if you’re from another country). 

Hollywood Reporter article about Dead Poets Society

So, yes, it’s a clichéd formulaic story that we’ve seen before but the Director and Writer John Butler  injects his own highly personal take with lashings of Irish humour and a gutsy helping of genuine heart and emotion. It’s well worth a go and even Rotten Tomatoes gives it a rating of 81%. It has won many Irish awards and Hollywood Reporter is also a fan - 

“Winning performances from Fionn O'Shea and Nicholas Galitzine as odd-couple pals, plus nuanced work from a terrific Andrew Scott as a man who practices what he preaches by stepping out from the shadows, make this a feel-good "It Gets Better" tale that should speak to young audiences — LGBT teens in particular.” (Hollywood Reporter)

A special mention goes out to Irish actor Andrew Scott who plays the role of the English teacher Dan Sherry pushing the boys to find their voice and who they are. I love when he stands up for Ned when the class are making disparaging comments, with a visceral wit all he needs to say is “The next person to make a single solitary sound of any sort is in hideous trouble.” Short, sharp and perfect. There is also a lovely moment near the end of the movie, where Dan attends a rugby match and introduces the Principal to his boyfriend. Again, another simple line delivered in a nonplussed way – “Arthur's me fella.” Just like that, those 3 little words and the teacher (who could have been fired for being gay) practices what he preaches. The courage it takes Dan and the manner in which the Principal reacts is a sweet poignant moment but still quintessentially Irish. Saying lots without saying much at all. Ya, go Irish Men for using very few words. Both the writing and directing of those 10 seconds is magic.

Another thing John Butler writes about is how taunts and mannerisms get handed down through generations and lose their point of reference. None of the boys can explain why they make a sort of nasal “Ewww” noise when bullying supposedly gay colleagues. Older viewers will immediately recognise a Kenneth Williams impersonation devised by fathers (or possibly grandfathers) many years earlier. But this is exactly the sort of crap that went on in my secondary school (many moons ago) and maybe still goes on.

Handsome Devil has received critical acclaim, winning the award for Best Irish Feature of 2017 from the Dublin Film Critics' Circle; four nominations at the 2018 Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA) Awards, including Best Feature Film; and the Best Single Drama Award at the annual Celtic Media Festival in 2018.

For me, this is clearly the Irish version of Love, Simon (Movie Review & Book Review). It might not translate well outside of Ireland because of its wit and writing style but it’s a must see for young LGBT Irish & British people. I’m giving it a 9 out of 10 planet review (it loses a planet because of the clichés.

John The Captain Ryan

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