The History Boys
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Adapted from the original Tony Award winning play and starring the original Tony Award winning cast, The History Boys is an engaging, thought-provoking, and wickedly funny look at history, the pursuit of knowledge, and the utter randomness of life.
The play's the thing in The History Boys. Unlike most stage-to-screen transitions, Nicholas Hytner assembled the entire original cast for the celluloid version of Alan Bennett's award-winning work. (The two previously joined forces for The Madness of King George.) As in Hytner's National Theatre production, a group of Sheffield sixth-form boys, Timms (James Corden), Lockwood (Andrew Knott), Rudge (Russell Tovey), Scripps (Jamie Parker), Crowther (Samuel Anderson), Akhtar (Sacha Dhawan), Posner (Samuel Barnett), and Dakin (Dominic Cooper)--the latter two standouts--spend an extra term in 1983 preparing for their Oxbridge exams. Hector (Richard Griffiths) and Dorothy Lintott (Frances de la Tour) are their regular instructors (both performances garnered Tony Awards), while Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore, Bright Young Things) is the enigmatic new history teacher. The Headmaster (Clive Merrison) brings him on board to lend the precocious lads "polish." Irwin, however, is more interested in encouraging them to think creatively--not merely to recite facts. The boys just want to get into Oxford and Cambridge. If that means withstanding the occasional grope from Hector and harsh word from Irwin, so be it. In the end, which boy gets in where isn't insignificant, but Bennett's greater concern is what they learn along the way. If Hytner isn't always successful in reconciling the intellectual with the more earthbound, The History Boys is one of the funniest films yet about Britain's educational system--and education in general. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Stills from The History Boys
- Widescreen Feature
- Audio Commentary with director Nicholas Hytner and writer Alan Bennett
- History Boys around the World: Tour Diaries
- Pass it On: The History Boys on Screen
Top Customer Reviews
Some explanations are in order, because some cultural things are hard on American audiences. Someone once famously observed that we're two nations divided by a common language.
"The History Boys" is not set at a boarding school; it's a grammar school, and it's a second-tier grammar school. In the pecking order back then, you'd have had your British public (but actually private) schools, then your grammar schools led (as the movie mentions) by the likes of Manchester Grammar. Then you'd have the grammar schools like the one in the movie and it would, for these boys, have been a heck of an opportunity (if you buy into the whole Oxford & Cambridge thing, which obviously I didn't) and a bit of a reach. They'd be at a disadvantage for some of the reasons given in the movie (fewer opportunities than kids at more high-falutin' schools) and for the reason of simple English snobbery and the class system at the time.
Second, the class represented here is not, as one reviewer suggested, a mythical place where students care, teachers care and debate thrives. This is an actual place, very much how good English schools were, especially in the last year of 'A'-Levels and the Oxbridge term. It's very well-portrayed here. When I came to the USA, where I attended a fine public university, I never recovered from my disappointment that there wasn't the same level of debate and class discussion.Read more ›
His mission conflicts with the goals of the English and History teachers. Hector, the motor-cycle-riding English teacher (Richard Griffiths), has taught the students reams of poetry, along with the French subjunctive (though it is not his subject), having students practice their French by pretending to negotiate at a brothel. He takes the long view and values education for its own sake. The History teacher, Dorothy Lintott (Frances de la Tour), has taught the facts: "Plainly stated and properly organized facts need no presentation, surely," she remarks to the headmaster. The students' efforts to be accepted at Oxford drive the action.
The film features many of the same actors who appeared in the stage play, notably the brilliant Griffiths as Hector, the sensitive Moore as Irwin, the tough-talking, heart-of-gold de la Tour as Dorothy Lintott, and the same eight students, joking, bantering with their teachers, and pursuing their favorite subject--sex. The film, however, is very different in tone from the play. In the play the conflict between the teachers and their views of education unites the action and gives depth and universality to strong themes.Read more ›
As the all important day draws closer the young men are not only challenged in the classroom but within themselves to discover what history is and the part they play in its continuation. They begin to understand that history consists of not only events of the past but is part of the everyday fabric of random events in which they live. It is something to be embraced, lived and passed on.
`The History Boys' is a tremendous film filled with wit, wisdom and a wonderful soundtrack of upbeat tunes you already know and love. Just remember that it's a British production so make sure you're in the mood to listen carefully, those accents can be tough if you're not giving the movie your full attention.
"The History Boys" covers the personal and academic challenges of 12 people -8 students and 4 instructors- as the young men race to prepare for tests that might determine their future. The movie contains some material that isn't in the play, but it has also removed a lot to make the film shorter and tighter. It's theatrical and talky, with characters that are more representative of types than realistic. But it's very funny at times, and that's the basis on which I recommend "The History Boys". The humor is balanced by a somewhat awkward drama that I expect will have no shortage of detractors. The theme of competing educational styles runs throughout: Irwin teaches to tests, Lintott teaches traditional curricula, and Hector provides an eclectic, inspirational window on life and art. This is another one of those schoolboy tales in the vein of "Dead Poets Society". The depth is found in the teachers more than the students, but the boys' unapologetic humor won me over.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a great little movie, based on a play. Well cast, and very credible. I did the Oxbridge exam myself but in a different subject, so I can vouch for the authenticity. Read morePublished 2 days ago by David G Carter
I really enjoyed this movie. A great cast and entertaining story. It's much better than the normal Hollywood stuff.Published 15 days ago by John P.
I watched this film since a former friend of mine recommended it to me and said it was one of the best films he had ever watched, and even bought it on DVD. Read morePublished 28 days ago by Just the facts.
Excellent film with a superb cast. Boys in a local school are given extra help so as to qualify them for Oxford University. Outstanding. Recommended.Published 3 months ago by cathairetic
One hell of a good story with a great amount of inside jokes. Women being one in particular. Worth a view with a gang of good buddy's.Published 4 months ago by Ishmael