Contemporary World Cinema

Handsome Devil

John Butler

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A music-mad 16-year-old outcast at rugby-mad boarding school forms an unlikely friendship with his dashing new roommate, in this funny and observant coming-of-age tale from Irish novelist and filmmaker John Butler.

This tender look at the travails of teenage life is the story of the worst thing Ned (Fionn O'Shea) ever did. It's also the story of the best thing that ever happened to Ned.

With his dyed hair, willowy build, and penchant for sexually ambivalent pop and rock from generations past, 16-year-old Ned has never fit in at the rugby-mad boarding school his father insists he attend. Determined to simply keep his nose down and weather another year of loneliness and bullying, Ned is pleasantly surprised when he develops a friendship with his dashing new roommate, Conor (Nicholas Galitzine), a rugby virtuoso with issues of his own.

The boys bond over music and start to practice guitar together. At the encouragement of their English teacher (Andrew Scott), Ned and Conor enter a talent show at a local girls' school. As both talent show and rugby season loom, however, the pressure on Conor to choose between manly athletic discipline and more artistic pursuits threatens to tear him apart — while Ned is increasingly tempted to betray Conor's trust in order to save his own skin.

This funny, observant coming-of-age film from Irish novelist and filmmaker John Butler — whose feature debut, The Stag, screened at the Festival in 2013 — reminds us that bravery and loyalty are not innate traits. They're qualities we earn under pressure. Ned and Conor both make mistakes, but in the end, what truly matters is that each learns to speak in his own voice.

MICHÈLE MAHEUX

This film has been selected for the next generation of film lovers by the TIFF Next Wave Committee.

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