Drama about life at Rugby School in Victorian England. The headmaster is fair but not effective and life is brutal for the young boys because of bullying and it's consequences. The acting ... See full summary »
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Charles Henry Wyson
Drama about life at Rugby School in Victorian England. The headmaster is fair but not effective and life is brutal for the young boys because of bullying and it's consequences. The acting and character development are good and the roles well cast. It's a good adaptation of the novel and was filmed at The Rugby School. Written by
There were at least two real historical events portrayed in the film, even though they were not in the book: 1) The headmaster closing down the school hunt; 2) The headmaster complaining that before he arrived at the school, there were no masters (teachers) on school grounds at night to keep the boys from bullying, otherwise causing trouble, or getting into mischief. See more »
The film features several shots of Rugby School's Chapel, which wasn't built until 1875 - over thirty years after Thomas Arnold's death. See more »
A Moving and Timeless Story of Bullies and Victims
This at least fifth adaptation of Thomas Hughes' 1857 autobiographical novel "Tom Brown's School Days" provides a classic comparison to Harry Potter's Hogwarts, which has probably revived curiosity in portrayals of English boarding school life.
While I presume any 90 minute version (2 hours on BBC America with commercials), has to cut a lot more from the book than the 1971 mini-series that I haven't seen (nor have I read the book), the characters and the situations came through strongly.
Not the Dickensian deprivations of the poor house in "Oliver Twist", Ashley Pharoah's adaptation is much more about typical behavior in an all male environment that is a precursor to "Lord of the Flies," the dark side of "Peter Pan" where boys do adult actions without growing up, or at least various military movies (I only knew the naval song "Heart of Oak," used in a humiliating scene, because of "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World").
Key to enlivening this from just another costume drama with stock characters (the bully, the victim, the ineffectual leader, etc.) is the wonderful titular performance of Alex Pettyfer, billed as "introducing." I can't recall seeing a boy actor transform so much in front of our eyes other than Christian Bale in "Empire of the Sun," as he develops from timid to athlete to swaggerer to mature leader.
Stephen Fry is particularly good at conveying his guilt at the hypocrisy he gets trapped into as a well-meaning new headmaster trying to change a traditional den of testosterone gone wild. Jemma Redgrave doesn't get do very much as his oblivious wife.
Joe Beattie, in the thankless role of the arrogant, wealthy villain a la Malfoy in the Potter oeuvre, plays him foppishly, like Guy Pearce in the most recent version of "The Count of Monte Cristo." I was actually surprised when he cruelly seduced a maid, as I thought the homo-erotic potential in this hot house environment was implied, particularly when it is emphasized how "different" the weakest victim is as he shines at poetry readings.
A story of the perniciousness of bullying left unchecked never goes out of date, and this portrayal is universal and timeless, regardless of its period setting.
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