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dir-scr John Butler
prd Rebecca O'Flanagan, Robert Walpole
with Fionn O'Shea, Nicholas Galitzine, Andrew Scott, Moe Dunford, Ruairi O'Connor, Michael McElhatton, Mark Lavery, Jay Duffy, Jamie Hallahan, Amy Huberman, Ardal O'Hanlon, Hugh O'Conor
release US Oct.16 nf, UK 28.Apr.17
Unlikely friends: O'Shea and Galitzine
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
From Ireland, this breezy drama tackles earthy issues as it tells a story about inclusion and boarding school bullying. It's a sharply written film, with bold central characters and some surprisingly strong emotional moments along the way. Along with several pointed comments about the tyranny of sports-obsessed culture, the film carries an important message about finding the courage to be yourself, whatever the cost.
Openly gay, Ned (O'Shea) has a year left in his rugby-loving boarding school, and he's not sure whether to keep his head down or actually try to get expelled. Mercilessly bullied by homophobic rugby captain Weasel (O'Connor), Ned is horrified when the team's new star player Conor (Galitzine) becomes his roommate. But they become unexpected friends, encouraged by new English teacher Mr Sherry (Scott). On the other hand, their preparation for a talent show performance together is making Coach Pascal (Dunford) furious. And Headmaster Walter (McElhatton) likes rugby too much to be very objective.
Writer-director Butler creates a disarmingly engaging tone that draws in the audience, mainly thanks to Ned's askance way of seeing the world and his boldly witty retorts to all forms of bullying. Of course, his initial rejection of Conor is prejudice as well, which adds some complexity of the set-up. As do later revelations about both Conor and Mr Sherry. Some of this feels scripted and convenient, but it has genuine meaning and impact.
All of the actors bring fresh realism to their characters. O'Shea is charming and a bit goofy, as he needs to be, and his razor-sharp sense of humour makes him irresistible. His scenes with Galitzine bristle with unspoken tension, which both actors play with a well-judged mixture of camaraderie, attraction and wariness. As the overcompensating manly men, Dunford and O'Connor are able to add unusual textures to their roles. And Scott is simply excellent as the concerned and conflicted teacher.
With its clever range of characters, the story is able to tap into some heavy topics while maintaining a realistic, often comical atmosphere. At the centre, it's a knowing exploration of a young guy who goes against the grain, refusing to fit in on principle. What he discovers is that claiming your space in society is worth the risk. Sometimes you find others who share your view, and sometimes you can bring someone with you into something new. It's a complex message that transcends the film's setting. And it leaves the audience emotionally stirred as well as smiling in the end.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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