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The History Boys
UKScreen Rating:

The History Boys – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

It’s the late 1970s and a group of Yorkshire schoolboys have just secured straight As in their A-levels. Their headmaster (Merrison) is determined to boost the school’s reputation by getting the boys in to Oxford.
The head isn’t convinced that the traditional teaching methods of Mrs Lintott (de la Tour) and the unorthodox style of the exuberant Hector (Griffiths) will lift the class to Oxford standards, so he brings in some young blood – the highly imaginative Oxford graduate, Tom Irwin (Moore).
Moore pushes them to their academic limits, helping them to think outside the box.
But as well as bringing the best out of them in their studies, he helps them develop as people and learn as much about themselves as they do about their history.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

This is basically a British Dead Poets Society for History, rather than English, with Robin Williams split in two – his warmth transferred to Irwin and his sense of fun picked up by Hector.
But while the performances of the adults were all impeccable, the film felt oddly unsatisfying.
Somehow, the film just didn’t seem to have a strong enough emotional core.
The boys themselves didn’t seem to be as passionate about their subject as they should have done, and if they’re not passionate about it, why on earth should we be?
And while none of the pupils seemed particularly passionate about history, the one pupil that everyone else seemed to be passionate about was thoroughly unpleasant and undeserving of any affection, and you didn’t want anyone to end up with him anyway.
Also, where the boys are concerned, with most what story there is handed to Posner (Barnett) and Dakin (Cooper), the others seem to spend much of the film just making up the numbers.
Much of the dialogue is sharp and witty, bright and bouncy – as you’d expect from Bennett – but it seems affected, unnatural – right for the stage, perhaps, but less suited to the big screen.
As a film, it’s just not very cinematic – a bunch of students pontificating about history – and their feelings, or lack of them – and while it’s a bit of fun, it’s thoroughly inconsequential and largely pointless.

opens nationwide 13th October 2006

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