Magazine article Screen International

'Handsome Devil': Toronto Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Handsome Devil': Toronto Review

Article excerpt

Dir/scr John Butler. Ireland, 2016, 95 mins.

The eternal quest to be true to yourself sings out loud and proud in Handsome Devil, an immensely likeable, coming of age/coming out charmer from writer/director John Butler. The film retains the brash energy of Butler's debut The Stag (2013) but is a less cartoonish, more polished affair that should warm the hearts of an even bigger audience and shine a light on talented young stars Fionn O'Shea and Nicholas Galitzine, a Screen Star of Tomorrow in 2015.

O'Shea is a particular delight as gawky, sixteen year-old Ned, a bright, artistic lad who discovers his own hell on earth at an all-boys Irish boarding school where the manly pursuit of rugby is a religion. Any non-believer is condemned to suffer relentless ridicule.

Lonely Ned is resigned to his status as the school outsider and the constant insinuations about his sexuality. Everything changes with the arrival of his new roommate Conor (Galitzine), a star player in the rugby team, and English teacher Dan Sherry (Andrew Scott) whose presence evokes The Dead Poets Society as he asks the boys: " If you spend your whole life being someone else, who is going to be you ?"

Handsolme Devil boasts bright dialogue and a lively directorial hand that uses split screen and an often eye-popping colour scheme to ensure that the attention never wavers. What gives it substance and some poignancy is the unlikely friendship between Ned and Conor when the school ethos suggests they should be sworn enemies. They bond over a shared love of music, but the friendship comes at a price to Conor as the rugby coach questions his commitment to the game and teammates suggest he chooses his friends more carefully. …

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