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Handsome Devil (2016) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

HANDSOME DEVIL

Director: John Butler
Writer: John Butler
Stars: Fionn O’Shea, Ardal O’Hanlon, Amy Huberman, Ruairi O’Connor, Nicholas Galitzine, Andrew Scott

Every once in a while I will sit down and handpicked a movie that I know nothing about, nothing about the actors and I will avoid reading other reviews on the movie and just sit back with an open mind and see where the story will take me. Ned (Fionn O’Shea) and Conor (Nicholas Galitzine) are forced to share a bedroom at their boarding school.
The loner (Ned) and the star athlete (Conor) at a rugby obsessed school form an unlikely friendship through music until it’s tested by the authorities and classmates alike when Conor’s secret on why he was expelled from his former boarding school.

“Handsome Devil” is one of these movies you know has a message in there and although it’s pretty obvious, nevertheless it does get its message across and in particularly with its “macho” undertones does its best in a believable way.

The movie centres mostly around Ned who is the school misfit and is probably in the 2% who couldn’t care less about Rugby. Ruairi O’Connor is Weasel who torments Ned for most of the movie and does his best to influence Connor into not having anything to do with Ned. In fact Connor does just that for the first few months and to be honest Ned isn’t interested in forming any connection with the new boy either who is also the star player in the school team, so much so they mutually build a wall (from drawers and other furniture) down the middle of their room to segregate each other.

It isn’t until Conor asks Ned about his guitar and what music he is into, topped off by this is Conor’s admiration on how Ned manages to write poetry in his class not thinking anyone will notice he is borrowing his words from songs. (He is finally rumbled when the teacher Mr Sherry (Andrew Scott) notices he has stolen the lyrics from “My Perfect Cousin by The Undertones”) Ned in turn shows Conor a room within the School that houses old records and instruments and with the assistance and persuasion of Mr Sherry they are coaxed into performing “The Housemartins Think for a Minute” at a talent show.

Andrew Scott is an excellent choice of actor for this particular role as the character of Mr Sherry like Connor has his secrets and isn’t a two dimensional run of the mill movie school teacher. His character has complexities and anxieties and Scott performs very well. I first saw the actor in a TV Movie back in 2010 when he nailed his portrayal of Paul McCartney in “Lennon Naked” He also scarcely resembles Mark Ruffalo in looks and his mannerisms.

In a predominantly Rugby obsessed school there was always going to be conflict in Conor spending time on Music and Talent shows from the authorities and the Rugby coach Pascal O’Keeffe (Moe Dunford) and this adds to the drama and conflict in the character of Conor who is being pulled in two directions. Without spoiling or revealing too much in the storyline it is Ned who discovers the secret Conor has kept from everyone and in turn it is Conor who discovers Mr Sherry’s secret and both these characters have to carry the burden of knowing what they know.

I never expected too much from “Handsome Devil” although when the Irish Film Board are involved in these projects they normally are a decent and entertaining mix of drama and humour and I found this in “Sing Street” and “The Young Offenders” The movie and its subject matter is handled in a way that isn’t cliché or patronising and is very delicate and sensitive to its issues. The movie is shot in traditional style of a film of this budget that doesn’t rely on certain shots or a heavy soundtrack. It’s a simple story shot in a simple way and the acting is credible and the actors appear to be on the same level in their performances. “Handsome Devil” running in at just under an hour and a half isn’t time wasted. It’s a decent enough movie and perhaps is a one time viewing only movie.

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