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Based on the acclaimed play of the same name, The History Boys is a faithful, intelligent piece of cinema, even if it is a little reluctant to stray from its theatrical roots.
Penned by Alan Bennett and set in 1982 Yorkshire, The History Boys follows a group of ‘A’ Level students as they’re schooled through their attempts to get into Oxbridge. Under the tutelage of Richard Griffiths’ liberal Hector and Campbell Moore’s Irwin, there’s plenty here to admire. Firstly, the script crackles along, with snappy dialogue and characters well worthy of your interest. Secondly, the performances from the predominantly young cast are well worthy of note. And then there’s the deft directorial touch of Nicholas Hytner (The Madness Of King George, The Crucible), all of which lifts The History Boys into a film of real merit.
There are questions to be asked over whether you’re expected to sympathise with one or two characters in the film, of course, and there’s the aforementioned issue that it’s far too faithful to the source play (which results in an overlong running time). But ultimately, The History Boys is a witty, challenging and testing film, whose qualities outweigh its problems.