The Scouting Book for Boys (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner18/03/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 93 mins

Impressively directed, sharply written British drama with terrific central performances from Thomas Turgoose and Holliday Grainger, but the increasingly dark and downbeat tone may prove too much for some tastes.

What's it all about?
Directed by Tom Harper, The Scouting Book for Boys (a title which suggests a panicked last minute name change from Scouting for Boys) stars Thomas Turgoose as David, a 14-year-old boy who lives in a Norfolk caravan park with his entertainer father (Tony Maudsley) and spends all his time hanging out with his best friend Emily (Holliday Grainger), the daughter of the site's shop clerk (Susan Lynch). However, when Emily's alcoholic mother loses custody and sends her to live with her father (Nicholas Sidi), David helps Emily hide away in a seaside cave and it isn't long before the police start looking for her.

The Good
Thomas Turgoose delivers yet another excellent performance as David, shifting subtly from devoted, naive teenager to something much darker as he first experiences betrayal and then slowly begins to realise the power he holds. Grainger is equally good, undergoing almost the reverse trajectory, manipulating David's obvious crush on her and then gradually becoming aware of how much trouble she's in.

There's also strong support from Rafe Spall (as the site security guard who befriends David and Emily and then becomes the chief suspect in her disappearance) and Steven Mackintosh (as the police detective in charge of Emily's case), while Susan Lynch's apparent channelling of and slight resemblance to Amy Winehouse works surprisingly well. In addition, the film is beautifully shot, with Robbie Ryan's characteristically gorgeous cinematography (Ryan also shot Fish Tank) finding an almost dreamlike quality in the Norfolk coast landscape.

The Bad
The only real problem with the film is that its descent into darkness takes it too close to horror movie territory and feels like a step too far. (There were several walkouts at the London Film Festival screening.)

Worth seeing?
This is a sharply written, beautifully shot and superbly acted drama that marks director Tom Harper out as a talent to watch. Worth seeing.

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The Scouting Book for Boys (15)
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Content updated: 11/12/2017 13:27

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