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The History Boys - funny, charming and intelligent
The History Boys (DVD)
Member Name: jesperado
The History Boys (DVD)
Advantages: Superb performances from a strong cast
Disadvantages: None really
WHAT IS IT: The History Boys is a 2006 film based on the play of the same name by Alan Bennett. It was directed by Nicholas Hytner (who also directed the original production of Bennett's play) and stars the cast of the original production. The story follows 8 boys taking an extra term after A Levels to prepare them for the entrance exams for Oxford and Cambridge. They are under the tutelage of flamboyantly eccentric General Studies teacher Hector, dry witted History teacher Mrs Lintott and the young and enthusiastic teacher hired to help them get in, Irwin. The boys struggle with the vast amount of work they need to do and come to realise that they have to be able to offer more than their academic skills.
STYLE: Set in the early 80s, the film sets its context using the music that the boys would listen to as its soundtrack. Most of the action takes place in the classroom and the day trip scene was filmed on location in England giving it a low budget feel. It is a world away from the Hollywood blockbuster, there are no flashy set pieces just a good strong story with excellent characterisation
CHARACTERS: As with most of Alan Bennett's writing, the characters in the History Boys are very finely drawn and utterly believable. They are just the type of boys you would find in a high school - the playboy, the sporty one, the awkward one - without falling into stereotypes. Dominic Cooper is annoyingly smug as Dakin, the object of everyone's affections, but it completely works as a character as his cockiness and bravado expose his underlying confusion. Samuel Barnett is exceptional as Posner, the lovelorn schoolboy struggling with his unrequited feelings for Dakin. In fact, there isn't a performance that is anything less than excellent in this film. The characters really come alive without being clichéd or overblown, which is a credit both to the writing and the acting. Bennett's writing is very witty and clever and is awash with literary references but manages to retain its charm without becoming too academic or difficult to follow. There is a great warmth about this film and I really felt I could empathise with the characters as they display the difficulties of being a teenager and the multitude of expectations placed on young people. There is something really genuine about the performances of the central characters and this is very moving in places. I don't want to give away any key plot points but there are parts in which you really feel for Irwin as the boys try to get the better of him. Richard Griffiths gives an excellent performance as Hector and manages to elicit sympathy for a complex character that could be viewed in a completely different way (this may not make much sense now, but you will see what I mean if you watch the film!)
SUMMARY: A very charming, enjoyable film which broaches a range of issues faced by young people with warmth, humour and intelligence. Bennett's writing captures all the tensions of adolescence without being hackneyed or patronising to its subject and the cast portray this mixture of emotions brilliantly. I would thoroughly recommend this to anyone.
Summary: A fantastic film - watch it now!