But boys will be boys, of course – especially at a boy’s school.  At least at this school, where it’s all in good fun.  For some bizarre reason.

The message behind “The History Boys” is painfully obvious.  We’re being asked, quite simply, to embrace homosexuality.  Rather than the token gay character, however, we have several.  Everyone, in fact, seems to be at least a little bit gay, and the line between heterosexuality and homosexuality seems hopeless blurred – just as the boy’s characters are confusingly mixed.  The problem is that no one can ever claim to embrace sexual abuse, especially of minors – so it’s a very poor medium in which to convey this message of “tolerance.”

Cinematically, the film simply doesn’t work, which is Hytner’s fault.  The actors all hold themselves as if they’re onstage, speaking far too loudly and formally, with awkward pauses as if they’re waiting for an audience to laugh.  The dialogue is stilted, with the characters each taking turns, as they would in a play.  Most of the scenes take place in the classroom, and there is hardly anything to remind us that this is the '80s.  The climax is also melodramatic and far too pat.

Then there are the characters.  The actors (who all appeared in the stage version) are far too old to be playing the parts of high school boys.  Moreover, none act like teenage boys.  Nobody talks about girls – ever.  Only the gay ones are interested in sex, and obsessively so.  Even the heterosexual one is game to give homosexuality a try.  Not only that, but they all love singing old show tunes and dancing around the classroom. 

Some might say this is England, but I’ve lived there, and I know better.  This is another planet entirely.  And frankly, it’s not one I’m interested in visiting again.

AUDIENCE:  Adults only

DVD EXTRAS:

  • Documentary
  • Cast biographies

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Characters smoke throughout film; one or two characters may drink wine.
  • Language/Profanity:  Numerous obscenities and profanities, many strong.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity:  Numerous references to homosexual acts, including very strong ones.
  • Violence:  Implication that character is killed in road accident, but not shown.