The Scouting Book For Boys

The Scouting Book For Boys


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The title is initially something of a conundrum, since this is not about scouts, nor exclusively boys. But, when you consider the original Scouting Book For Boys was something of a 'military' style manual with chapters including Tracking, Camp Life And Campaigning, Endurance And Chivalry, and Saving Life And Patriotism, in the context of this film, it quickly becomes apparent that Skins scribe Jack Thorne - tackling his first feature-length screenplay - is out to explore the more negative connotations of these topics.

This is also director Tom Harper's first foray into features, after two very successful short films - Cubs and Cherries - and he is unusual for a first-timer these days in tackling someone else's script rather than one of his own. Despite showing a lot of directorial potential, the film is let down somewhat by its story, as Thorne forgets that an audience, like the scouts, need to be prepared for plot developments if we are to fully accept them.

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Before the narrative wheels become loose, however, there is plenty to admire in this tale of bosom pals David (Thomas Turgoose) and Emily (Holliday Granger), two teenagers who live permanently in a caravan park in Norfolk that has seen better days and in familial arrangements which are also past their prime. Inseparable - and teetering on the cusp of romance that often stems from teenage friendship - their buddy bubble is threatened when the news breaks that Emily is to be sent to live with her dad, although this is no a great surprise considering her booze-sodden mum.

Emily is determined to stick around - and has reasons for this beyond those of which David is aware - so they hatch a plan to hole her up in a cave. But as the campsite community is rocked by her disappearance and a massive manhunt is launched, the sexual sparks between the pair threaten to derail their friendship, especially when David finds things may not be as simple as they first appeared.

The energetic opening is given a sunset glow by cinematographer Robbie Ryan (fast becoming synonymous with good 'steeped in Britishness' lensing after Fish Tank, Mischief Night and others), which lends proceedings a retro feel, recalling an older world of holiday camps and simple friendship. The script is also at its strongest here, with Thorne demonstrating a good ear for the cadences and freewheeling nature of youthful banter. But although a certain element of possible danger is suggested - one of the kids has a minor accident - their conversation doesn't have enough depth through the middle portion of the film to justify a belated move into much darker waters and a major character shift that audiences will find very hard to swallow.

Turgoose and Granger are excellent as the friends to the end, but elsewhere the characters lack any sort of depth - Emily's mother (Susan Lynch) is a crudely sketched drunk, while Steven Mackintosh turns up as a very thinly and stereotpyically realised copper. Still, if this doesn't quite win the scout badge for excellence to which it aspires, there is still plenty here to suggest that all concerned have the potential to make much more accomplished films in the future.

Reviewed on: 12 Oct 2009
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The Scouting Book For Boys packshot
A boy agrees to help his best friend run away from the caravan park where they live, but as their plans begin to unravel dark secrets also come to light.
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