Movie Review: The Scouting Book for Boys

Shameless meets Skins in tender coming-of-age drama

Cert: 15, 1hr 33 mins
Starring: Thomas Turgoose, Holliday Grainger

If The Scouting Book for Boys falls somewhere between an episode of Skins and an episode of Shameless, by way of a Shane Meadows feature, it’s perhaps understandable.
Written by Skins and Shameless writer Jack Thorne, and starring Thomas Turgoose (the cheeky, chavvy one from Meadows’ This is England and Somers Town), it could hardly have been anything else.

Not that that’s a bad thing – Tom Harper‘s feature debut is an assured, poignant and graceful slice of life drama, but one that suffers from one of Shameless and Skins’ worst traits: namely, fully-realised kids, but adults that seem to have just stepped out of a sketch show. A BBC Three sketch show.

But let’s start with the kids. Teenagers David (Turgoose) and Emily (Holliday Grainger) are two thick-as-theives friends living on a Norfolk caravan site, playing games as they chase among the caravans, but with teen hormones catching up with them all the way.

This balance is important, because the film’s key turn sees Emily run away, David torn between his attraction to her and creeping knowledge of the impact her disappearance is having as the police are called, and faced with that choice again, between boy and man.

All this is done well – it’s just such a shame that the adults (Emily‘s mother may as well be called Amy Winehouse and get it over with) are mostly such one-note cyphers.

Does this say something about adults from the perspective of children? Perhaps. But you can’t help feel that, if you’re going to make a film about the pains of entering adulthood, you should have a good grip on what it’s like when you get there.

Stuart McGurk