John Butler Handsome Devil
Cast: Fionn O'Shea, Nicholas Galitzine, Andrew Scott, Moe Dunford
Director: John Butler
Running Time: 95 minutes
Synopsis: Ned, the bullied outsider, and Conor, a new boy and star athlete, are forced to room together at their cloistered boarding school. Conor is drafted into the senior rugby team, whose actions dominate school life and whose privilege and entitlement have made Ned's life to date at the school a misery. The boys take an instant and visceral dislike to each other, and Ned and Conor seem destined to remain enemies until an English teacher Mr. Sherry (Andrew Scott) begins to drill into them the value of finding one's own voice. This lesson isn't appreciated by everyone, though, not least the rugby coach, Pascal (Moe Dunford), who has his own agenda, and who harbours some deep suspicions about Sherry.
"Handsome Devil" is a classroom drama, following in the American cinematic tradition of 'Dead Poet's Society", 'School Ties", 'Pretty in Pink" and 'Election". But this film is no exercise in nostalgia. The story here of claiming one's own identity is totally modern, one in which the children also have something to teach the adults. The most important lesson? Despite what everyone tells you, sometimes you shouldn't pick a side - sometimes being yourself means being a little bit of everything.
Release Date: May 25th, 2017
Writer-directors are often pre-occupied with an idea or theme which recurs over and over in their work, and my obsession appears to be what exactly it means to be a man. My first film 'The Stag" ('The Bachelor Weekend"), asked what masculinity was, and 'Handsome Devil" wonders what the benefit is of all strict binary definitions, such as male/female, gay/straight, strong/weak, young/old, teacher/pupil.
My film is a comedy-drama about two young boys who begin to question the value of these definitions over the course of one tumultuous year at their boarding school, under the influence of two very different teachers. Though set in contemporary Ireland, the story has strong elements of autobiography – it was inspired by my own school days, and by the influence wrought upon me by an inspirational English teacher. If the lesson drummed into us in school is to be true to ourselves, then one must wonder why we have to be one thing or the other? Why do we have to choose at all - why can't we be everything?
Although the setting here is Irish; the intention is for the message to resonate universally through laughter, and the pain of recognition. As Ned narrates in the film, 'everyone who's ever been young – so that's everyone ever – knows exactly what humiliation feels like." Let us never forget that feeling... I am also obsessed with the spark that can be glimpsed when drama and comedy bump off each other. That spark is, to me, the quintessence of human experience on this planet; a brief experience which is joyful, sad and completely absurd, often at the same time.
- John Butler
Release Date: May 25th, 2017