I went up to the second run theater to see The History Boys a second time, before it left theaters altogether. I might be a little obsessed. I’d listened to the radio play through twice since seeing it the first time, and it was still just as engaging for me. The writing in particular is such a pleasure, and the cast (the original from the stage) has a lot of experience in making the stylized language of it sound natural. They succeed.
When I did my 2006 round-up, I put it down as a movie of my heart and one of the best queer films of the year. I stand by that. It’s all I can do to not just link Brendan Kiley’s review and just do wavy hands, because I am totally with him 100%.
Unsurprisingly, many on the IMDb message boards despise it. They’re wrong. The main issue there seems to be that though Hector fondles the boys, he is presented as a sympathetic character. (First, let’s set aside that for me, sympathetic characters who do bad things might be my bulletproof kink, as it were. See for examply my love for Talk to Her.) But anyway, for me this argument misses a huge point of the film/play, which is the danger of the closet. It’s also argued that the movie makes the claim that all gay men are pedophiles*, especially considering the coda for Posner (changed from the honestly darker conclusion of the play), but I don’t agree with that either. I’m with Kiley, who says its only clear moral message is: If young gays don’t venture out of the closet soon, they’ll become emotionally deformed adults. Bennett’s not saying it’s wrong to be gay (which would be ridiculous, as he’s out himself); he’s saying there can be dangerous consequences to being closeted.
* Forgetting, of course, that a pedophile acts on an attraction to -children-. Not teenagers. And though the boys are Hector’s students, they are of age (18/19), and there is a line for Hector there. We see it in that he refuses to take Posner on the bike even when Posner offers. The other boys tell him it’s because he’s too young.)
(Randomly, and mostly so I remember, the IMDb boards were useful in coughing up this Playbill interview with the boys, including interesting insights into their own characters. For the purposes of this discussion, Samuel Barnett’s response is particularly interesting regarding his character, Posner.)