Handsome Devil, the Irish comedy-drama was a great choice for kicking off Glasgow Film Festival, 2017
Directed by John Butler, the cast includes Irish actors Fionn O'Shea, Nicolas Galitzine, Andrew Scott (Jim Moriarty in Sherlock) and Moe Dunford.
The film tells the story of the unlikely friendship between Ned (played by Fionn O'Shea) and Conor (Nicolas Galitzine). The former is a loner and unpopular kid at a rugby mad Irish boarding school. New boy Conor, Ned's room mate, is a serious athlete and star of the rugby team. I don't want to say much about what transpires after the boys' initial clash – as I hope you'll go and see this film.
Another newcomer at the school is the inspirational English teacher, Mr Sherry, (some great acting from Andrew Scott), whose message is to stay true to yourself. He's the polar opposite of the homophobic bullying rugby coach Pascal O'Keeffe (Moe Dunford).
The characters are all well painted, and whilst we recognise the stereotypes, what could have easily been a formulaic tale draws you in with wit and emotion. In parts humorous, the film also addresses ridicule, humiliation, issues of sexuality and the fear of not belonging, which can be key elements of school life. For a picked-upon kid, O'Shea displays a lot of strength, and neither is the super-athlete Conor, with his brooding nature, one dimensional.
The acting is excellent and Butler really succeeds with his characters; rising to the challenge of making these school boys absorbing. Less important characters are also well cast and I enjoyed this film right from the start, when the reluctant Ned is being driven to school by his father (Ardel O'Hanlon and his cold and glamourous stepmother(Amy Huberman). The quirky but reliable headmaster (Michael McElhatton) shows some depth and an unsuspectedly open mind as the film develops.
Handsome Devil buzzes along at a good pace with the help of a fabulous sound track including The Housemartins, The Undertones, Prefab Sprout and Big Star with Alex Chilton's fabulous 'Thirteen'.
Handsome Devil is a marvelous film with a brilliant and totally exuberant ending – I don't think the Film Festival Gala Goers would be in any way disappointed.
Pat Byrne, February, 2017