Plot – An unruly class of gifted and charming teenage boys are taught by two eccentric and innovative teachers, as their headmaster pushes for them all to get accepted into Oxford or Cambridge – The History Boys
Director – Nicholas Hytner
Released – 2006
Filled with the level of clever witticisms and sparkling, scintillating dialogue you’d expect from a theatre adaptation, The History Boys will keep you engaged just enough to follow the story through, yet fails to do enough with the cinematic medium to warrant the move to the big screen. Ultimately falling flat because of the filmmaker’s lack of vision and ability to move past its basic themes and questionable morals surrounding teacher/pupil relationships.
While literature and history are both treated as central to the boy’s lives, preparing them for their university entrance exams, The History Boys does precious little to teach the audience about these topics, meaning anyone lacking a keen interest in either subject is already playing catch-up with the plot and risks being left behind. This intellectual elitism from the writer also manifests in the lack of character development beyond stereotypical students (the jock, the stud, the homosexual, the rich one etc), none of which you grow to like, though you might grow to dislike some, or at the very least find their life choices confusing.
The film also struggles with homosexual themes, some reviews at the time of release going so far as to attack the writer Alan Bennett for seemingly defending paedophilia, or at the very least, failing to treat it as something unsavoury, which I’d argue is probably fitting of the time period and the setting of an all-boys school, where abuse ran rife and it was covered up by those in positions of power for fear of loss of reputation.
Nevertheless, The History Boys is an entertaining intellectual exercise. That ill-suited for cinema does allow Bennetts material to reach a much wider audience, even if he does gloss over the predatory behaviours of some of the characters, attempting to frame them as lii-fated homosexual relationships that the audience should root for.