Handsome Devil: Film Review
Cast: Fionn O'Shea, Nicholas Galitzine, Andrew Scott, Moe Dunford
Director: John Butler
Whilst it may be steeped in coming-of-age familiarity, writer / director John Butler's Handsome Devil packs a certain degree of charm into its story.
The tale centres around Fionn O'Shea's red-headed Ned who's sent to an Irish boarding school by his family. Bullied for not being into rugby and not getting behind the school's push to win a trophy for the first time in years, Ned forms a friendship with his roommate Conor (Galitzine), the star hopeful of the team, who's been shipped in from another school.
The two boys find themselves growing closer, and with the tutelage of Andrew Scott's English teacher Dan Sherry, they find their desire to be themselves blossoming.
But in a rugby mad school, homophobia's never far away...
Handsome Devil has elements of Dead Poets Society, Sing Street and great 80s music to set it apart.
While its familiarity of themes feels a little stale and predictable in parts (a macho school coach who's appalled at the burgeoning friendship between his star player and the teacher), there's a degree of warmth in the short run time to justify its existence.
It helps that it's sensitively acted and handled by a strong cast, with Scott's Sherry easily the early charismatic stand-out of the piece, recalling elements of Robin Williams' Captain, My Captain.
It's also helpful that both Galitzine and O'Shea play their characters with affable warmth and underpin their journey with a degree of plausibility that's engaging.
And that certainly helps given the film's denouement and conflict can be seen coming a mile off, its desire to be uplifting and feel-good almost crippling its intentions.
Handsome Devil won't spark a major renaissance in these types of films, but it can hold its head up high that this boarding school tale and its push for individuality does enough to bring its audience along for the ride, and leave them feeling slightly more uplifted than any cynical viewer has a right to have.