Pass It On! (The History Boys review)

I forget what initially drew me to buy the film The History Boys. Maybe it was because Allan Bennett had written the original Tony award-winning play AS WELL AS the screenplay for the film adaptation. Maybe it was because Frances de la Tour was in it. Maybe it was because the song The Universal by Blur was in the trailer. Maybe it was all the very handsome men speaking in various British dialects. Or it could have been the mix of poetry and history.

We'll never know.

The History Boys is the kind of film I someday hope to write. While I've read reviews that say that it didn't translate as well as it could have from the stage to the big screen -- and I can see where their complaints lie -- I have to say that it is fast becoming one of my favorite films.

The story begins in 1983, where eight boys, nicknamed "The History Boys" for their love of history, have received the highest A-Levels scores the Cutler Grammar School has ever seen. They are determined to try for Oxford and Cambridge, but have no hope, even with teachers like the idealistic and philosophical Mr. Hector and the blunt and wise Mrs. Lintott. The new, young teacher, Mr. Irwin, is hired in hopes of steering the boys in the right direction, especially with their entrance essays.

Luckily, the film was made with the original Broadway cast, because I honestly can't see anyone else playing these roles, even the actors and actresses who've replaced them.

The film is more character-centered rather than plot, although the two are very much intertwined. The boys are made up of the cool and desirable Dakin, the religious Scripps, the pining and sadly sweet Posner, the snarky and mischievous Lockwood, the trouble-making and smart aleck Timms, the athletic Crowther, the hopeless yet determined Rudge, and the witty Akhtar. They are led by Mr. Hector, an old teacher with a poet's soul, the ability to quote anything, and a penchant for beautiful boys, Mrs. Lintott who laments that history is five centuries of male ineptitude, and Mr. Irwin, who pushes the boys to their limits and encourages very unorthodox ways of looking and dissecting history.

The characters are wonderful. The boys remind everyone (over the age of 18) of what it was like to have expectations, to believe you were invincible, and the teachers are the prime example of how life can sometimes be nothing but a disappointment.

It's Dakin and Irwin, however, that have the most intriguing relationship. I won't go too much into it should anyone rent/buy the movie, but the boundaries of Platonism are continually pushed, culminating in a very satisfactory -- or unsatisfactory -- result. It is a fascinating war.

The film, itself, however, reflects the genuine life of a school boy. There are no fancy shots, or artistic lighting. It's almost as if you're there in the classroom, seeing the world realistically.

As for the transition from stage to film, I can't voice any objections, for I haven't had the fortune of seeing the play. I can agree with those who say that the characters in the film aren't as fleshed-out as they are (or must be, in my case) in the play. The film characters were very fun and somewhat multi-dimensional, but there was definitely some other kind of depth missing there. I can only assume that they are brought into full in the play. But then again, until I see it I can't pass judgment.

The History Boys is full of beautiful language, hilarious one-liners, and thought-provoking history lessons. It's what school ought to be: teaching you history while simultaneously preparing you for the utter randomness of the future.

I give The History Boys 4 out of 5.