The Scouting Book for Boys – Review

[do action=”film-review”/]


David (Thomas Turgoose) is a miserable, lonely teenager, living with his cabaret singing single Dad in a Norfolk caravan park.

His only friend is Emily (Holliday Grainger), a year his senior, but as much as an outsider as he is.

They’re looking forward to a summer of light delinquency around a holiday resort that lacks any charm, warmth, personality or excitement.

But when Emily’s mother decides to send her away, the pair have to come up with a plan if they’re to keep their friendship alive.

I say friendship – for David, it’s rather more than that – Emily knows that and milks it, but doesn’t reciprocate.

When Emily simply disappears to escape the fate her mother’s planned for her, the police lead a search while fingers start pointing at the local yob.

Only David knows what’s happened to her – something which initially works to her advantage – and later to his.


This works on several levels – as a one-fateful-summer/coming-of-age kind of film – as a study of unequal relationships and power-play among children and between children and adults.

The first act feels like the kind of gritty low-budget British comic-drama we’ve seen from the likes of Mike Leigh, brimming with social observation and life’s absurdities.

But as the second act unfolds, the mood grows ever darker.

In this sense, Ken Loach’s recent Looking For Eric could be comparable, with the film mixing cheeky humour with elements of the dark underbelly of the criminal underworld.

Three years on from his stunning debut performance in Shane Meadows’ This Is England, Turgoose is remarkable again here, spilling a range of emotions onto the screen with little effort – and little apparent acting. Grainger too gives delivers a delightfully mature turn as a similarly complex character.

Anyone who’s ever been young, bored and in love – or indeed out of it – will identify with elements of this plot.

Some viewers might rail against children who run away from their problems – others will respect the bravery of characters who take responsibility for their own lives when they reject the plans others make for them.

The film takes a decidedly difficult and darker turn towards the end, which is uncomfortable viewing but remarkably brave film-making.

It makes a pleasant change to find film-makers with the courage of their convictions, who refuse to flinch in the face of difficult decisions and let the story pull them where they believe it should go, rather than where audiences and financiers might expect it to end up.

Both the director, Tom Harper, and writer Jack Thorne, were nominated for newcomer awards at last year’s London Film Festival for this assured, beautifully shot genre-melding feature.

From a strong field, Thorne deservedly walked away with the prize.