The Scouting Book for Boys (15)

Nicholas Barber
Sunday 21 March 2010 01:00
Comments

While I was watching The Scouting Book for Boys, I assumed it was a poetic adaptation of a cult novel. I don't mean that it's uncinematic – it says more with its torrid visuals than it does with words – it's just that when a setting is this distinctive and a plot is this fresh, it usually means that an author's done most of the heavy lifting before the film-makers came along.

In this case, the screenplay is an original by Jack Thorne, who makes his feature film debut, as does the director, Tom Harper. The setting is a caravan park on the Norfolk coast. Two inseparable teenagers, Holliday Grainger and Thomas Turgoose (who already has a healthier filmography than many an actor twice his age) live on the site, because Grainger's mum and Turgoose's dad work there.

Life for them is a wild endless summer of stealing sweets, playing arcade games for free, and bounding along caravan rooftops, so when Grainger hears that she's got to leave the area to live with her father, she decides that she'd rather run away by herself. I won't give away any more of the many twists, but an idyllic tale of youthful friendship takes a gothic turn. It's not perfect. The adults are caricatures, and there's an over-reliance on twilit fields and sickly folk ditties. But Robbie Ryan's cinematography gives the film a hazy, sun-drenched magic, while Thorne and Harper and their lead actors have fashioned an acutely credible dynamic between a girl who's just discovering her power as an attractive young woman, and a tongue-tied boy who's tormented by that power.

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