(director/writer: John Butler;  cinematographer: Cathal Watters; editor: John O’Connor; music: John McPhillips; cast: Fionn O’Shea (Ned Roche), Nicholas Galitzine (Conor Masters), Andrew Scott (Mr. Sherry), Moe Dunford (Pascal O’Keeffe),  Michael McElhatton (Walter Curly), Ruairi O’Connor (Weasel), Mark Lavery (Wallace), Jay duffy (Victor),Stephen Hogan (Conor’s Dad), Amy Huberman (Ned’s Stepmom), Ardel O’Hanlon (Ned’s widowed father); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Rebecca O[Flanagan/Robert Walpole; Breaking Glass Pictures; 2016)

“Makes its case against homophobia and for being yourself.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An agreeable mainstream serio-comedy about life for opposite personality high school room-mates–the artistic, dyed ginger-haired, nerdy, social misfit Ned Roche (Fionn O’Shea) and the closeted handsome gay rugby superstar student Conor Masters (Nicholas Galitzine)–in a posh boarding school in Ireland that is rugby-obsessed. The novelist writer-director John Butler (“The Bachelor Weekend”/”The Stag”), in this well-acted and affirmative personal coming-of-age film, blends together the usual formulaic sports film dramatics with a subtext about the stresses of being gay or non-conformist in a repressed all-boys high school. The moralizing film is filled with ‘be yourself’ sermons that lead to a pat happy ending when reason prevails and the teen main characters find their true selves. By strongly coming out for a tolerance on sexual identity, after showing how dreadful things can be when intolerance prevails, the film makes its case against homophobia and for being yourself.

The sensitive 16-year-old Ned reluctantly goes off to the Wood Hills boarding school to be bullied by the jocks on the rugby team. The sports-minded headmaster (Michael McElhatton) rooms him with the belligerent Conor, the transfer student given the boot from another boarding school for fighting. With the help of their new inspirational English teacher, Mr. Sherry (Andrew Scott), the boys befriend each other over their love for music. The surprise is that both the teacher and Conor are gay, and Ned is only mistaken for gay because he’s such a dweeb. How the three navigate their school days is often heavy-handed, but the main characters are sincere and likable. One can say the same thing for the picture.

The villain is the homophobic rugby coach (Moe Dunford), who finds redemption when sports in the end trumps his bigotry.

The LGBT teens are the target audience for this feel-good, predictable and sugary well-meaning film.

REVIEWED ON 5/16/2017       GRADE: B-