Unless you're a theatre fan you probably won't have heard of Nicholas Hytner either, but he is critically acclaimed in the world of stage and is one of the most influential gay men according to the Independent on Sunday Pink List. As the director of The Madness of King George and the award-winning stage production of The History Boys, it was surely not a difficult decision to get him on board to helm this project.
The story is based on a group of eight schoolboys who achieve the best A-level results in their school's history, and are encouraged by the headmaster to stay on for one more term to prepare for their entrance examination to Oxbridge, wherever that is. I looked for it on a map once and couldn't find it, but apparently there's a dead good university there.
The teachers that have coached the boys thus far are all interesting, intellectual, clever and enthusiastic, and the dynamic between the teachers and the pupils is fascinating to watch. The main theme of the play is history, but not in a boring or stuffy way. Instead the pupils, and the viewer, are encouraged to look at historical events in a refreshingly honest and real way, as they would treat the events that happen in their personal lives. There is also a strong theme of homosexuality in the play, as some of the pupils and most of the teachers struggle to come to terms with their own and each other's desires.
What can't really be conveyed in this article though, is just how funny, interesting and engaging this film is; it held my attention for every second (no small feat for a film that is almost entirely dialogue) and features some exceptionally well-drawn characters. Richard Griffiths as Hector gives a particularly strong performance.
Ranging from emotional to hilarious, The History Boys is a wonderful, thought-provoking and tremendously enjoyable film, a superb adaptation of a play and one of the most grown-up films I've seen for a long time. Highly recommended.