BFI Flare Film Festival Spotlight: Handsome Devil

When it comes to coming-of-age comedies about being the gay kid that sticks out like a sore thumb at boarding school, Irish director John Butler has most certainly found a winner in his latest feature length film Handsome Devil.

What’s it about? Meet Ned. He’s your atypical Irish ginger bender with fair skin and an accent to die for. Ned’s big dilemma is that he hates boarding school because all his schoolmates (well, you really can’t say mates, he despises most of them) are utterly obsessed with rugby. In fact, the whole school is obsessed with rugby which makes music-loving Ned the butt of many of many jokes unbeknownst to his oblivious father and younger step-mom who have left Ned for a life in Dubai. Ned’s world is turned upside down when handsome devil rugby champ Conor transfers to his school and becomes Ned’s unlikely roommate.

Why is it good? Ned and Conor’s friendship in the film is very sweet and unassuming and the two eventually find common ground in their gayness, although both are quite different types of boys indeed. Just as Conor helps Ned fit in more at school by befriending him, Ned helps Conor comes to grip with sexuality, something that he struggles with in balancing a macho athlete persona with his need for more meaningful interactions in life. Often times Conor’s only defence against his own fears is to beat the crap out of his peers, something the rugby coach takes great delight in.

What’s quite endearing about Handsome Devil is that Ned has a problem with not being “the only gay in the village” once Conor arrives and he struggles a bit having to share his special gay card with someone else, but ultimately realises that he’s found a special friendship to embrace and he’s willing fight to keep that friendship. Shoot, Ned even takes a beating for it as it’s something that important to him.

If you are a fan of British gay teen comedy Get Real from 1999, then you’ll feel similar vibes with Handsome Devil – I most certainly did. With great supporting performances from the English teacher (played by Andrew Scott) and the uber macho, slightly homophobic rugby coach (played by Moe Dunford) and a great use of music throughout the film, Handsome Devil is a little piece of film that will surprise and delight connoisseurs of gay cinema.

With Handsome Devil, you’ll leave the cinema feeling good and wishing your could have been friends with Ned and Conor in real life.

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