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3.9 out of 5 stars231
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 27 August 2007
It's clear from the wide range of review comments that this film is not for everyone. If you don't see the point of education, forget it. But the film raises an issue that for many people is very important today -- just what is education for? -- and answers it on two different levels. Explicitly, "pass it on", which doesn't sound very much. But it's the implicit message that matters, which is that education is essential for giving people confidence and fulfillment, as well as many other things.
The film differs in one significant respect from the stage play which was so successful at the National Theatre. Posner, whom Alan Bennett says had much of his younger self in, no longer ends up as a psychotic loner but becomes another teacher. This changes the balance of the moral, as well as increasing the gay emphasis. Bennett has also excised the puzzling opening of the play in which Irwin is seen as a spin-doctor. Yes, the younger actors were getting a bit old for 18-year-olds by the time the film was made, but the visual settings are splendid, and I'm sure I'm not the only viewer who finds the ending -- in either version -- moving.
If your're remotely interested in why people should learn beyond functional necessities, you should see the film or the play, doesn't matter which. If you're not -- why not?
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on 9 September 2007
A brilliant film. Superbly acted by a cast who manage to project real emotion to the screen. Having seen the stage play twice, I was doubtful that the film could be as good. Fortunately the temptation to sensationalise some parts were avoided and the resulting film is excellent. Isn't is funny how those who object on moral grounds only seem worried by the homosexuality. Of the critical reviews I have read, not one condemned the headmaster for his groping of the school secretary!. Modern day standards or just discrimination?
I viewed the DVD on rental and purchased it the following day. Can not recommend it highly enough..
Ian Scott
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on 9 January 2007
History Boys is a film adaptation of an Alan Bennett play about eight boys spending an extra term at school for their Oxbridge exams in the early 80s. It stars the same young men who have successfully played the boys on stage over the last couple of years as well as fine performances by Richard Griffiths, Frances De La Tour, Clive Merrison and Stephen Campbell Moore. The boys start their term being taught by the eccentric, camp academic Hector (Griffiths) though the dour, practical headmaster (Merrison) replaces some of his lessons with rookie recruit Irwin (Moore) to give the boys some edge and help them think outside the box. The contrast, conflict and respect between the two generations is cleverly portrayed, as is the gradual development of the individual personalities of the eight students.

All well written and beautifully developed then yet nothing like my secondary education even though the boys are only supposed to be a handful of years older than me. The undercurrent of homosexuality, ubiquitous use of surnames and flamboyant flouting of academic prowess were not part of my school experience though maybe these facets were more prevalent in single sex Grammar Schools a few years earlier.

Although The History Boys was written as a play and is probably most effective on stage, the film adaptation is memorable and thought-provoking with some fine dialogue and excellent performances. Well worth seeing.
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on 7 October 2009
A friend lent it to me and I must say I didn't know what to expect at all. I was very pleasantly surprised when I watched it. It is full of fun, wise at times , sad at others and really enjoyable. I am unlike other reviewers and do not find it a problem that the 'hero' likes to fondle his students' genitals. I can't say that I approve either or would be happy if it happened in schools, rather, I thought it was about what society in general perceives as harmful and what can actually appear acceptable to some. In my opinion the youngsters tolerated it because they knew they weren't harmed in any way. I also suppose that they must have known about the depth of loneliness their teacher felt and realized that by accepting to be fondled they made his life happier, more worth living, without any evil consequences for themselves. Their attitude is full of benevolence and acceptance and I do not find it worrying at all. they must have been able to balance the wealth of knowledge he made accessible to them and decided to put up with what they must have felt like a slight inconvenience.
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on 8 June 2007
I have bought many DVD's through Amazon, but having seen this film on the stage, at the cinema and now on a rented DVD, I decided to share my views with others for the first time. Perhaps being a little biased as I think everything Alan Bennett writes is worth reading or looking at, I must disagree with those reviewers who feel it is too faithful to the stage play. If it hadn't been then I think it would have diminished the quality of the production.

I've shared the film with any friends of a variety of ages, from 17 to 87 and there has not been one who hasn't found it a very enjoyable experience. A film well worth taking the time to look at.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 15 December 2012
The History Boys as a play was quite fantastic, and this film version preserves its memory very well, with the brilliant original cast. It came at the end of its theatrical run, and probably at the last possible moment the boys could have got away with it. Their sense of camaraderie is very well caught and makes for a lively film experience - they had lived with these roles for so long they had become almost like a second skin. The three teachers are also cherishable, all having deft, witty lines and a certain pathos. There is whiff of wish-fulfilment about how sexuality is presented, with homosexuality being unusually accepted by everyone, and desires indulged with a kindness that would make this a very exceptional group of boys. But really there's no reason not to present it as shown, as a vision of a certain Greek model grafted on to 1983, seen as a kind of utopia. You could say it's a corrective to the excessive anxiety about sexuality involving boys of this age at large now. And whether you approve or not, it can surely be put like this to promote discussion which is not generally encouraged in this area.

The Oxbridge teaching is a bit of a caricature, admittedly, but the three styles of teaching on show do raise interesting questions about what education means. The real question is how to get back to something less soulless than the current grade factories that many schools have become, with so many league tables and wholly exam-based teaching. The most interesting idea, I thought, came from Mrs Lintott (the unique Frances de la Tour), namely the role of chance in the making of history; how everything could so easily have been different at almost every point. This is both thought-provoking and true, I think, at all levels in life ... Above all, however, the film stands as a joyous portrait of a group of boys at perhaps the most exciting juncture of their lives - full of hopes, while living in a present bursting with learning and questioning on all fronts, and holding the promise of sex and fulfilment like plucking fruit from a tree. And as a marvellous testament to the acting of Richard Griffiths. What a pity this post-A level idyll no longer exists before the more impersonal - and now expensive - university experience. And of course it could just as easily be about girls, although in terms of Bennett's utopia I think a mixed group would change the sexual frustrations and tensions he sets up here.
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on 6 June 2007
Excellent. Low-key presentation belies the excellence of the movie. Quick-witted and clever, fine characterisation - this movie was a pleasure to watch. Good Sunday afternoon viewing.
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on 13 July 2007
I've just finished watching this film and must admit it has been in our collection for a few weeks but we hadn't worried too much about watching it - I'd read the reviews here and been but off. We purchased it because we collect British Films to basically support what is left of the British Film Industry. So with it being a rainy day at the end of a week off, I thought why not give it a go... Fantastic! I really enjoyed the whole thing from beginning to end and found myself involved in the story line and wanted to know what happened, yes I admit there was an 'oh no here we go' moment at the start but that soon passed.

It just goes to show that you should make up your own mind about things and not just listen to what other people think!

Go on give it a try and at least you'll be funding the British Film Industry and if you don't like it maybe there'll be one you will enjoy in production soon.
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VINE VOICEon 5 January 2008
I held out for months against watching this, as the trailers put me off, gave me the wrong idea of what it was about, and I'm not a huge fan of Richard Griffiths. However when I did finally see it, I was in for a treat. I found it extremely amusing in an unusually clever kind of way - especially the French scene which I was able to appreciate in spite of my rusty, O level French. Great fun is poked at the pretensions of the Oxbridge education, the snobbishness of having a league table of Universities, and the meaning and point of what "education" is actually for. The banter and repartee between teacher and pupils, and amongst the pupils themselves, is delicious. I loved the Asian pupil saying to the black "you all look the same to me". Gloriously non-pc; but at the same time compassionate, tolerant, and poignant - as well as hilariously funny.
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on 6 January 2007
It's very difficult to improve upon a successful play when you make it into a film. Even when it is done well (say, Sleuth or The Little Shop of Horrors), it's still never quite as good as seeing it on stage. What Alan Bennett and Nicholas Hytner have tried to do here is to open up the emotional lives of the play's characters a bit more and make the feel more naturalistic.

Neither ambition succeeds all that well: though Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore) is now a more vulnerable teacher, the emotion somehow distracts from the argument at the work's heart about what education should be about (passing exams or learning for its own sake - and what should be learned?). As for the fact that everything feels more real, this robs us of some of the best jokes from the play, such as Mrs Lintott (Frances de la Tour)'s complaint that she has 'not so far been afforded an inner voice'.

These are tiny quibbles - the film is still streets ahead of most in terms of ideas, intellect and sophistication...and is still very funny. But the changes are interesting and not entirely welcome. Posner (Samuel Barnet) ends up with a more optimistic future than he did in the play, surely sentimentality on Bennett's part, though this is offset by one of the other boys being killed by friendly fire in Iraq. An added PE teacher doesn't add much. For me, most disappointingly of all, Russell Tovey's plain-speaking Rudge (my favourite character) doesn't get to sing It's a Sin at the end so gets to finish his schooldays on a note of regret, rather than personal triumph. Bizarrely, I hear this terrific scene has even been cut from the play now.

I'm being picky, of course. It's still marvellously enjoyable. The play was just that teensy bit better. But, as I've said, that's true of everything from The Rocky Horror Show to Henry V.
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