Handsome Devil: Irish film just keeps on going

Handsome Devil is an Irish movie about two opposites coming together. One is a loner and the other is a top athlete at a rugby-obsessed boarding school. We take a look to see if it’s any good.

Irish cinema right now

The Irish film industry has consistently lived by the code “quality over quantity”. Unlike the American film industry which is in a constant state of production cranking out new films what feels like every day. Only a handful of homegrown Irish movies come out regularly. It’s hard to deny for the last decade and a half Irish cinema has been going through a renaissance period. Irish directors, like John Michael McDonagh, have reached their peak. Animation studios are producing gorgeous masterpieces like The Secrets Of Kells. The Guard, What Richard Did, Sing Street… it’s hard to deny today we’re living in what could be a golden age of Irish cinema. A large part of that might be down to new freedoms for Irish filmmakers that older RTE produced movies wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.

For example, homosexuality among private school students.

review of irish movie handsome devilWhat’s the story?

Ned (Fionn O’Shea) is disenchanted with his father (Ardal O’Hanlon) and his stepmother (Amy Huberman) about wanting to leave his school. You see, Ned’s school, Wood Hill, is a private school. Just like any private school in Ireland the staff and students are rugby-obsessed. This is despite the fact the team lose every year. Not a fan of rugby, Ned is a target of abuse from his fellow students.

Actually, he’s the exact opposite of the vast majority of the school population. He spends much of his time reading or practising the guitar so naturally, he’s a prime target for bullying. So, of course, Ned tries to keep himself to himself. As you can imagine he’s not pleased when Conor (Nicholas Galitzine), a hotshot rugby player turns up. Conor had left his last school under mysterious circumstances.

The verdict

It isn’t hard to tell where exactly director John Butler’s inspiration came from. But bits and pieces could easily have grafted together from a number of sources. Either way, this is a tale of an unlikely friendship, a story about sensitive confused teens forced to live in surroundings they don’t belong to. It’s a story that generations have identified with.

But the film approaches its characters and its story with a lot of charm. While the end results are reasonably predictable, it doesn’t make the movie any less entertaining. O’Shea in particular throws in an extremely likeable performance. He keeps the movie light-hearted yet keeping a faint vulnerability in regards to the character.