Irish lads come of age in deft drama
Credible characters, some nice writing and a vital message highlight “Handsome Devil,” an Irish boarding school dramedy about coming out — and coming of age. Although the film can feel a bit been-there-seen-that, this earnest, welldrawn tale ultimately proves distinct and winning enough to warrant a look.
Ned (Fionn O’Shea) is a sexually ambiguous loner returning to Wood Hill, an all-boys school whose chief religion is rugby. The wry Ned knows his place among the jocks and bullies, though he rarely escapes the wrath of taunting classmate Weasel (Ruairi O’Connor).
But when transfer student Conor (Nicholas Galitzine), a good-looking if somewhat mysterious star athlete, is assigned to room with the wary Ned, the boys’ initial cold war gives way to a warmish, symbiotic friendship that turns complicated and revelatory. So much so that the fate of the school’s hallowed rugby team will hang in the balance — and lead to a stirring, all-for-oneand-one-for-all finale.
Director John Butler’s semi-autobiographical script deftly captures the privileged, self-involved vibe of tony private schools as well as the emotional seesawing of developing teens.
Equally effective is the film’s portrayal of its lead adults: an inspiring English teacher (Andrew Scott) who learns to practice what he preaches; the rugby team’s boorish, win-at-all-costs coach (Moe Dunford) and the academy’s surprisingly equitable headmaster (Michael McElhatton).
“Handsome Devil.” Not rated. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills; also on VOD.
DIRECTOR John Butler’s semi-autobiographical script set at a boarding school captures the vibe well.