Review: The Scouting Book for Boys

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The Pitch: All Quiet on the Eastern Front. Or, if you prefer, This Is Norfolk.

The Review: Having grown up in a seaside town myself, I can sympathise with the characters trapped in this Norfolk caravan park to a certain extent. And for two teenagers with nothing much else to get up to, a life of mischief and troublemaking is probably the default option when all else fails. Still, snacks and a magazine from a mother’s shop isn’t the end of the world – until the daughter then goes missing, and emotions and recriminations start spilling out.

Thomas Turgoose has, mainly thanks to Shane Meadows, been carving out a niche as the go-to person if you need a disaffected and slightly confused looking young actor for your British film (see also Eden Lake). Here he brings that slightly confused persona as David and works it very effectively, providing a centre for the story to revolve around, but always with that story feeling as if it’s half a step ahead of him.

But of the other performances, it’s Holliday Grainger as the boisterous Emily who steals the show. Her Emily has David hanging on her almost every word, so when she decides to plan her disappearance, there’s little surprise when David is such a willing accomplice. But not everything is as it first seems, and as the revelations unfold, each of the characters in turn gets a chance to show their true colours. Of those, Rafe Spall does well with a one-note role, but most of the rest of the characters are merely cyphers, designed to move the plot along.

As the movie nears its conclusion, matters take a much darker turn and what started out as a bit of fun in the Norfolk sun ends up as anything but. However, while the general plot and overall performances support these turns well, the final choices of David’s character do feel slightly more motivated by a need to take the plot to certain places, rather than genuinely stemming from the character. What you’re left with is a much darker character study than first expected, but one which carries much more emotional power as a result.

Why see it at the cinema: The other attendees at the screening I went to were all in the over 60 age bracket; I’ve not seen that many older people staggering dazed and confused from the cinema since I went to a matinée of Seven. (Am I a bad person for thinking that’s a good thing?)

The Score: 7/10

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