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Monday, May 16, 2011

Master Harold And The Boys

The last of my channel24 reviews for the week. A small movie, with a small appeal and a small review.

From Channel24 (Originally posted 13 May 2011)

What it's about:

Based on the acclaimed semi-autobiographical play by Athol Fugard and set in Apartheid South Africa, Master Harold and the Boys tells the story of young Hally (Freddie Highmore), a white adolescent who is stuck between his troubled, racist father and the black waiter who has always taken care of him.

What we thought:

Master Harold and the Boys may be many things but it ain't much of a film. It has a very bare bones plot but as a well thought out character study and a look at the racial politics of the period, it certainly does the job. Or, at least, it would do if experienced, I'm sure, as a play or when read. Put it up on screen, however, and it lands with a deafening thud.

Rather than suffering from what so many stage adaptations do of being too theatrical and overblown (see this week's excruciating For Colored Girls), Master Harold is so quiet, so intimate that it fails utterly to engage.

Having all the action take part in a single room is not necessarily a death sentence for a film. After all, The Breakfast Club, one of the most beloved teen dramas of the 80s was mostly confined to a bunch of students having detention together in a single class room. In this case, however, it very much was.

The actors try their best (Freddie Highmore's Afrikaans South African accent is especially good) and it's perfectly well written but after about half an hour it's hard not to find yourself wishing for a nuclear explosion or a Ninja invasion just to liven things up a little.

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