Handsome Devil review – feelgood comedy tackles homophobia

Set in a posh Irish boarding school, John Butler’s film focuses on an unlikely friendship between a star rugby player and his sensitive roommate

Writer-director John Butler won hearts and minds with his 2013 comedy The Stag; this new movie is about homophobia and conformism in a posh Irish boarding school. Very clearly, it is a personal and autobiographical project for him. For me, Handsome Devil exists in a Venn diagram tonal overlap between John Carney’s Sing Street and Lenny Abrahamson’s What Richard Did. Music is a vital lifeline for the kids growing up who feel alone – who are quiet or artistic or just don’t fit in. Meanwhile, rugby is a macho fetish, notably for the well-off.

Fionn O’Shea plays sensitive Ned, bullied for being “different” by the rugby types. Then he’s made to share a room with Conor (Nicholas Galitzine), a new boy thrown out of his old school for fighting, and Conor turns out to be a rugby superstar and saviour of the school team. Against all odds, the aesthete and the hearty become real friends; Ned finds this alliance gets the bullies off his back, but things are complicated.

It is a decent movie, though sometimes becomes a bit sugary, and it’s not clear if the comedy is supposed to be rooted in realistic observation or sentimental feelgoodery. Andrew Scott plays inspirational English teacher, Dan, who urges the boys to be themselves, but has yet to take his own advice.

Contributor

Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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