The Scouting Book for Boys

Film, Drama
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The Scouting Book for Boys
The journey from boyhood to manhood has inspired more great British films than just about any other topic, from David Lean’s ‘Great Expectations’ through to Shane Meadows’s ‘Room for Romeo Brass’, ‘This Is England’ and ‘Somers Town’. The star of those last two, pug-faced Grimsby troublemaker Thomas Turgoose, returns in this bold debut by noted shorts director Tom Harper (‘Cubs’): a film which manages to shed new light on this well-documented chapter in the human story.

Turgoose plays David, a taciturn teen whose life in a drab Norfolk caravan park is brightened by his friendship with mouthy, independent scrapper Emily (Holly Grainger). When her parents threaten to split them up, Holly takes drastic action and fakes her disappearance, hiding out in a nearby cave and choosing David as her only link with the outside world. But as their companionship develops – in David’s mind, at least – into something more serious, his emotional state becomes increasingly unstable.

Harper and screenwriter Jack Thorne’s triumph in ‘The Scouting Book for Boys’ is to nail adolescent romantic obsession: that feeling of swooning desperation that comes with unrequited love. This is a film dripping with nostalgia – not the cheap, wistful kind, more a heartfelt but unsentimental longing for the moral clarity and emotional intensity of childhood, however painful it might have been at the time.

‘Fish Tank’ cinematographer Robbie Ryan repeats the remarkable trick he pulled off in that film by being simultaneously realistic and poetic, drenching the jagged contours and concrete structures of the English coastline in warm, honeyed light. The soundtrack is less succesful: Harper’s largely acoustic song choices err towards the winsome – and occasionally the downright awful – which punctures the meticulously sustained, sun-kissed mood.

But a film about teenagers stands or falls on its performances, and here ‘The Scouting Book for Boys’ succeeds admirably. Turgoose executes his customary balancing act between naturalism and outright performance, and it’s becoming increasingly hard to see the joins: his turn here is far more downbeat and restrained than we’re used to. Grainger is magnificent as Emily, switching from cold disdain to grasping helplessness in an eyeblink. Their relationship is beautifully developed and wholly believable.

Thorne and Harper take a series of perilous narrative risks in the final act, the perceived success or failure of which will depend on an audience’s willingness to follow them into some surprisingly dark and challenging emotional territory. But even if some of his choices fail to convince completely, Harper has done enough with this striking, ambitious debut to herald the arrival of a major new filmmaking talent.

By: Tom Huddleston


Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday March 19 2010
Duration: 92 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Tom Harper
Cast: Thomas Turgoose
Holly Grainger
Rafe Spall

Average User Rating

2.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:1
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:3
  • 1 star:0
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Well I'd say this film had a lot of potential but as you can clearly see from the comments, it had some flaws. The relationship the two main characters had were believable to an extent, but the music choice was poor! I may be wrong but it felt like every song was by Noah And The Whale which are a good band but are way to up beat for what the movie was actually about. I think it was a good effort and i did enjoy it but they really should of showed the consequences of his actions. I know a cliffhanger makes somethings interesting but this was definitely not one of those times, it just kept me wondering and I was deeply disappointed about the ending.

I thought the film was good, but towards the end (second half) it became more unclear. I could see that David was hiding Emily's body, but what happened after that? I think the film could have been better if the consequences of the events had been put in. I wanted to know if David could live with hinself after basically killing his closest friend and did Steve, the security guard have to go to prison for a crime he didn't commit? Showin us this would have cleared things up a bit.

I thought it was a superb film that had me totally gripped and completely desperate towards the end. The two lead performances were extraordinary. The emotional journey very dramatic but this is a story of a slip away from reality in more than one sense. Magnificent.

The TO reviewer lists Somers Town as a great British film. I think that says all you need to know about his critical acumen. It definitely accounts for the four stars he awards this dull excuse for a film.

I was moved to tears and absolutely blown away by this film and agree 101% with the reviewer. i think it is the best British film since My Summer of Love, serpassing the fine Fish Tank. A major new film-making talent? Absolutely.

I was moved to tears and absolutely blown away by this film and agree 101% with the reviewer. i think it is the best British film since My Summer of Love, serpassing the fine Fish Tank. A major new film-making talent? Absolutely.

I agree. It was alright. Nothing special. The music was a big mistake and the cop scenes were low standard. Very poor. The second half could've been interesting, but they weren't really up to it. Is this the best we've got?

It was ok. The music was chosen very poorly, and the cop character was really dumb, but it had its moments.

Four out of five stars is very very generous, three would have been kind, if a little patronising. Yes, there's some nice photography and some juicy dialogue and the central relationship is believable, up to a point, but the whole thing falls apart in the second half. There are gaping holes in the plot. The change in tone feels forced. The central character is underwritten and the police scenes are risible, just horrible. You can see what Harper and Thorne were trying to do and you could call it ambitious, in principle. Sadly, the execution was anything but ambitious. For some reason, they shrank from the challenge. A missed opportunity. I blame the producers.