Directed by John Butler, “Handsome Devil” follows Ned (Fionn O’Shea), an artistically minded, outcast teen who is sent to an all-boys boarding school in Ireland by his widowed father (Ardal O’Hanlon). As seen in the clip above, Ned is bullied relentlessly by his sports-loving classmates, but eventually, he strikes up an unlikely friendship with his rugby jock roommate, Conor (Nicholas Galitzine).
Butler, who also wrote the “Handsome Devil” screenplay, told HuffPost that he based the film on his own experience attending an all-boys boarding school as a teen. Unlike Ned, however, the openly gay writer-director is also a big sports fan, and said he struggled with what he felt were “two incompatible aspects” of his personality growing up.
“It’s a story that sprang from that difficulty, but it’s very much set in the here and now, and just as relevant in 2017,” he said, pointing to the fact that very few professional athletes have come out as LGBTQ.
So far, the critics seem to agree. The Irish Film Review applauded “Handsome Devil” for “delivering a far more satisfying examination of masculinity than before,” while Vanity Fair called it “perky and entertaining” after its 2016 Toronto International Film Festival debut. The Guardian compared it favorably to “Moonlight,” which won the Oscar for Best Picture in February.
Despite tackling teen bullying, homophobia and other serious themes, “Handsome Devil” concludes on an upbeat note for both Ned and Conor ― a fact of which Butler is particularly proud. “We shouldn’t classify happy endings in our community as being out of reach or belonging in the realms of fantasy in any way,” he said. “For too long, our narratives have been framed dramatically with desperately sad endings. It’s time to think differently, and to use different lenses to tell our stories.”
Butler hopes that all-inclusive message resounds beyond the LGBTQ community, too. “This is a film about identity, and the struggles of youth. Hopefully everyone can relate to that,” he said.
“Handsome Devil” hits theaters and On Demand June 2.
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