This coming of age story set in an boys’ grammar school was adapted from a stage play, and it really shows; the only attempts to make the story in any way cinematic it are a couple of clumsy montages and 1980’s pop soundtrack of dubious taste.
Not only that, having gone to an boys’ grammar school myself, I had a few problems with it. For one, the boys were all irritatingly glib and pretentious and anyone who compares his attempts at sexual conquest to a WWI battle plan to her face would never get laid! There were some funny parodies of teachers and their office politics – although Clive Merrison’s headmaster was the butt of too many jokes based entirely in snobbery – but my main gripe is in the overt homo-eroticism of it all. The script seemed to be saying that it’s okay for a teacher to grope teenage boys as long as he’s a bit of a laugh, and I found the idea of a heterosexual schoolboy offering his teacher the chance to “suck him off” as a reward for getting him through an exam utterly preposterous.
There are a couple of well written scenes and reasonably witty dialogue, but for me The History Boys felt far more like a homo-erotic fantasy rather than a believable drama.