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Thursday, June 8, 2017

'Handsome Devil' DVD: The Devil is in the Details Regarding the Price of Being Queer in a Highly Conformist Society


The many reason that the Breaking Glass Pictures June 6, 2017 DVD release of the 2016 Irish coming-of-age dramedy "Handsome Devil" is special is that it reinforces the theory of a highly insightful dude that a boarding school is a jail for kids who are sold the bill of goods that it is good for them. This is from the perspective of the beneficiary of a good education and some awesome friends at the costs of being abandoned by his parents and enduring two years of bullying by a hockey jock. (Hi Dan. I assume that you outgrew the literally nightly "midnight raids" that delighted you so much.)

Related boarding school insight from "Devil" comes in the form of the new kid at school joining that community several years after his peers. The closeness that comes after extended mutual confinement and shared adolescent experiences make it tough for the outsider.

This film further perfectly personifies the Gospel According to Unreal TV regarding Gay Pride. The spirit of that celebration is not provocative acts; it is showing that being yourself is proper and nothing to fear. Although not the "Devil," the hero/narrator to thine own self is true throughout despite the abuse that this prompts. The most blatant symbol of this is Ginger high-school boy/studious lad Ned in a sea of blond and brunette rugby jocks learning on his father and the trophy wife of said sire dumping him for another year his all-male boarding school that he is the only student without a roommate. 

Ned sees this as a means to avoid his tormentors; they view this as an opportunity to call him gay and assert that he is being deprived of a roommate to spare a fellow student a "midnight raid" in the form of anal rape. Another way that Ned is not like the other boys is that his appearance is slightly awkward, and virtually every other lad is a candidate for the cover of an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog. 

An element of all this is that the popular lads quasi-aptly use the term gay (i.e., queer) as an insult of a misfit and only tangentially as a commentary on sexuality. The manifestation of this includes a rude in both tone and intent noise that the dumb jocks consider subtle.

The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer for "Devil" showcases all of the above and everything else that makes the film a great treat for Pride or any other time that anyone needs help feeling good about himself or herself.


The accolades for writer/director John Butler handling his subject well include earning the Best Irish Feature awards at the 2017 Dublin Films Critics Awards and Jameson Dublin International Film Festivals. Including the film in mainstream festivals and bestowing those top honors awesomely shows that we've come a long way, Baby.

The aforementioned bliss of Ned is shattered on learning early in the new school year that transfer student with a secret/rugby star Conor is his new cellie. The response of Ned on returning to his sanctuary to see a barechested Conor doing push-ups in the middle of the room is precious; the subsequent reaction of Conor regarding his strange bedfellow is almost as good. Both reflect the oh-so-true fact that even adults typically are less mature than a situation requires.

The amusing solution that Ned devises (and that makes one feel sympathy for the devil) can be considered the Wall of Jericho by classic film fans. Conor portrayor Nick Galitzine (a.k.a. Little Nicky or Beelzebloke) puts his Satanic attractiveness to good use is peering through the barrier as the first step toward dismantling it. 

Andrew Scott (arguably best known as Moriarity in "Sherlock") steals the show as a subdued version of the prep school teacher that Robin Williams portrays in the film "Dead Poets Society." Dan Sherry is the youngish English teacher who takes over after the "retirement" of the fossil who is his predecessor. An early moment that establishes Great Scott has him validly embarrassing Ned in front of the class. This act clearly establishes that there is a new sheriff in town.

An intuitive Sherry coercing our lads to jointly prepare an act for an upcoming talent show follows the long reel and real traditions of making teens do what the grown ups know is good for them. This mutual effort predictably enhances the bond between the enemies turned chums. 

The conflict that occurs along the way includes Conor paying a proportionally high social cost for his increasing level of closeness with Ned, Conor and Sherry discovering that they each share a secret with potentially devastating consequences, and villainous (and abusive) rugby coach Pascal stirring up trouble by pushing false issues. 

As typical in coming-of-age films with a prominent sports theme, much of "Devil" revolves around an upcoming rugby tournament. The head of Conor is no longer so much in the game, and he is feeling increasingly repressed. Meanwhile, Ned is experiencing his own intense teen angst. 

Everything comes to a head when the tormenting of Ned brings him to a breaking point. His outburst forces virtually effort in the film and creates the type of turmoil that is the stuff of prep school legend for decades. 

It is predictable that the aforementioned rugby tournament is the climax. It is less predictable whether our boys find inner peace, their peers grow up, and the extent to which Sherry can make himself and his charges happier. One spoiler is that the film does not end up with the cast rushing the rugby pitch to groove and make out to a disco standard.

The positive elements of boarding school life require noting that Sherry represents the best aspect of that environment. The lost boys who are sentenced there almost always find a teacher who truly fills the role of in loco parentis while the ones who should be providing that support are literally and/or figuratively far far away. Someone who shows that love because they choose to is very special.

The special features include commentary by Butler and a highly entertaining and insightful Q&A session as Krakow film festival.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Devil" is strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.