An age old tale

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

HEAR­ING THAT this English com­ing-of-age drama in­volves the writer of the lu­bri­cious TV show Skins, the frail reader could be for­given for ap­proach­ing the cin­ema with some trep­i­da­tion. For most of its du­ra­tion, how­ever, The Scouting Book for Boys turns out to be an agree­ably touch­ing af­fair.

Di­rected by Tom Harper, hith­erto a TV spe­cial­ist, the film holds back the most dev­as­tat­ing shocks un­til the last act as it al­lows its young char­ac­ters to grad­u­ally re­veal their half-formed neu­roses. The au­da­cious de­noue­ment is, as a re­sult, that bit more sur­pris­ing and af­fect­ing.

Thomas Tur­goose, star of Shane Mead­ows’s This Is Eng­land, ap­pears as David, a trou­bled youth liv­ing in a Nor­folk car­a­van park. Barely aware of his own dis­af­fec­tion, David spends his days mess­ing about dis­used play­grounds and leap­ing the car­a­van roofs with his best pal Emily (a ter­rific Holly Grainger).

The idyll is bro­ken when Emily’s boozy mum (Su­san Lynch) an­nounces that the child is be­ing sent to live with her dad. Emily re­tires to a cave by the sea and – while the po­lice comb ditches for her body – David sup­plies her with food and en­ter­tain­ment.

Scouting does slip into a bit of a stu­por in its mid­dle sec­tion. But the classy per­son­nel en­sure that there is al­ways some­thing worth watch­ing on screen. Rafe Spall is creep­ily funny as an older chum of Emily’s who comes to be sus­pected of her mur­der, and Lynch – of­fer­ing the odd sug­ges­tion of her name­sake Bet – is touch­ingly bleary as the dis­traught mother.

The star of the film may, how­ever, be our own Rob­bie Ryan. Once again, as in his work with An­drea Arnold, the cin­e­matog­ra­pher cre­ates a hazy am­bi­ence that is both se­duc­tive and omi­nous. That sense of dread reaches ma­tu­rity in a jar­ringly sud­den change of tone that nudges the film to­wards the ex­traor­di­nary. We’ll say no more. But the end is cer­tainly worth wait­ing for.

Youth in re­volt: Holly Grainger and Thomas Tur­goose

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