Movies: The Scouting Book for Boys * * *
(16, general release)
Though directed by Tom Harper from a script by first-timer Jack Thorne, The Scouting Book for Boys has the influence of Shane Meadows all over it. This is due in part to the presence of Meadows' recurring star Thomas Turgoose, but also to the film's grittily poetic style and stubbornly teenage viewpoint.
Turgoose, who's now 18, is a remarkably talented film actor, and his hangdog face can communicate more in a split-second than 10 pages of a script can. He looks like a troubling cross between an old man and a little boy, and the touching vulnerability that has become his trademark is again to the fore here.
He is David, a shy teenage boy who has grown up on a caravan park at a bleak Norfolk seaside resort. His sole passion and inseparable companion is Emily (Holly Grainger), a pretty, free-spirited girl who has been his friend since childhood.
They both come from troubled backgrounds: David's mother is dead, and his dad is a cheesy entertainer at the local nightclub. Emily's even worse off, being in the uncertain care of her boozy, histrionic mother (Susan Lynch). When she hears she's about to be sent off to live with her dad, however, Emily is distraught -- and so is David, but not for the same reason.
He secretly loves her, but she has begun a sexual relationship with an older man, a local security guard. She decides to run away and hide in a local cave with David's connivance, but when he finds out Emily's secret, the scene is set for an emotional confrontation.
Beautifully photographed by Robbie Ryan, the film has real visual power, and the acting in general is excellent. But Thorne's screenplay takes ropey shortcuts, and its Shakespearean climax is unconvincing.