The History Boys is a little different from some of the other ‘up-North-lads-do-good pictures of recent years (Full Monty, Billy Elliott). Firstly, it is a bit intelligent (although it’s probably a bit unfair to expect the Full Monty to be intelligent, superb though it is, and there’s still a lot of English-lit. and philosophical self-indulgence in The History Boys). It’s a strong character-focused film, and masterfully acted by a surprisingly large set of prominent performers (who aren’t really as young as they look), as well as being hilarious to boot - to the extent that the more serious scenes sometimes dull the film’s impact.
The inter-character rivalry makes it an easier film to believe than, say, the hero-worship of Dead Poets’ Society, and only the slightly messy ending - which has probably just been clumsily adapted from the original play - upsets the strength of the plot. The clichéd gay stereotypes don’t help the film’s bid for originality, but it’s still a worthy watch, although you’ll probably get more out of it the more strongly you relate to the teenage schoolboy personality type.