Ir­ish lads come of age in deft drama

Los Angeles Times - - AT THE MOVIES - — Gary Gold­stein

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.

Break­ing Glass Pic­tures

DI­REC­TOR John But­ler’s semi-au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal script set at a board­ing school cap­tures the vibe well.

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