|Directed by:||Nicholas Hytner|
|Written by:||Alan Bennett|
|Starring:||Richard Griffiths, Frances de la Tour, Clive Merrison, Stephen Campbell Moore, Dominic Cooper, Samuel Barnett, Andrew Knott, Jamie Parker|
|Released:||May 3, 2007|
It often takes time for a play or musical to make the transition from the stage to the big screen. That is not the case with The History Boys. Capitalising on its popularity in both the UK and the United States, a cinematic version has already been made. This movie features the entire original cast from when the play first debuted in London in May 2004.
Set in a middle-class school in Sheffield in the year 1983, the film follows a group of final year students and their quest to earn at place at either Cambridge or Oxford, the two most prestigious universities in the country. Their two history teachers are Hector (Griffiths) and Mrs. Lintott (Tour). They may have differing styles but they are well regarded. Both are doing their utmost to give their students every chance at a successful life.
The Headmaster (Merrison) is concerned however. He is worried that the school’s reputation will suffer if these students aren’t accepted into a top-class university. Looking to give them a little “polish”, he employs a young teacher from Cambridge named Mr. Irwin (Moore). Irwin’s focus is on making the class stand out. He wants them to think outside of the square, for better or worse.
I really enjoyed watching this film. Whilst my plot description may sound simplistic, there’s a lot of grey in the story. It’s as if there’s something to like and dislike about each character. It doesn’t happen often but I didn’t look at my watch once throughout the movie. To use a metaphor, I was glued to the screen.
The movie has been written and directed by the same two people responsible for the play – Alan Bennett and Nicholas Hytner. At times, I did feel like I was watching a video-taped version of the play as opposed to a free-flowing film. Some of the discussions between the students in the classroom felt over rehearsed and unnatural. Still, I enjoyed the intelligent dialogue. Some insightful conversations are shared between characters on issues such as education, history, religion and sexuality.
Top performances are turned in from most of the cast. I’d expect nothing less given that they had all performed for months at the Lyttelton Theatre in London. As the two experienced educators, Richard Griffiths and Frances de la Tour are fantastic. They bring depth and originality to their characters. The same can’t be said of Clive Merrison as the Headmaster who was too one-sided.
There were a few elements to the story I’d have liked to have been explored further but on the whole, The History Boys has plenty to offer. The early scenes provide plenty of laughs and the later scenes give you much to think about. If given the chance, I’d love to see the stage play.