With his debut, "The Scouting Book for Boys," helmer Tom Harper wants to have it all: a gritty slice of life in a trailer park, lensed like a pretty commercial.

With his debut, “The Scouting Book for Boys,” helmer Tom Harper wants to have it all: a gritty slice of life in a trailer park, lensed like a pretty commercial. Unfortunately, neither element works. This far-fetched tale of a deception gone terribly wrong begins energetically but soon turns ridiculous, hobbled by pedestrian dialogue and poor side characters. At home, ancillary will be far stronger than theatrical, while Stateside chances are slim in any medium, even if subtitles are added for the near-impenetrable working-class accents.

Best friends David (Thomas Turgoose) and Emily (Holliday Grainger) are an unlikely young duo — he’s awkward, she’s volatile. When her trashy mother (Susan Lynch) loses custody, Emily is told she has to move in with her dad (Nick Sidi). Instead, she hides out in a cave, where David brings her necessities, but he feels betrayed upon learning she’s pregnant by security guard Steve (Rafe Spall). Ham-fisted narrative aside, the tech elements pose problems: Why the “CSI: Miami”-style color scheme, with impossible light sources? And who supplied the scores of candles so tastefully arranged in the cave’s niches?

The Scouting Book for Boys

U.K.

Production

A Celador Films, Screen East, Film4 presentation, in association with Pathe, of a Celadon Films production. (International sales: Pathe Intl., London.) Produced by Christian Colson, Ivana MacKinnon. Executive producers, Paul Smith, Sheryl Crown, Laurie Hayward, Peter Carlton. Co-producer, Andrea Cornwell. Co-executive producers, Francois Ivernel, Cameron McCracken. Directed by Tom Harper. Screenplay, Jack Thorne.

Crew

Camera (color), Robbie Ryan; editor, Mark Eckersley; music, Jack C. Arnold, Noah and the Whale; production designer, Paul Cripps; art director, Kem White; costume designer, Julian Day. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (Zabaltegi New Directors), Sept. 21, 2009. (Also in London Film Festival -- New British Cinema.) Running time: 91 MIN.

With

Thomas Turgoose, Holliday Grainger, Susan Lynch, Steven Mackintosh, Rafe Spall, Ruth Wellman, Ewan MacIntosh, Ann Elsey, Lorraine Bruce, Tony Maudsley, Candice Manning, Nick Sidi.
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