The Scouting Book for Boys

HEARING THAT this English coming-of-age drama involves the writer of the lubricious TV show Skins , the frail reader could be…

Directed by Tom Harper. Starring Thomas Turgoose, Holly Grainger, Steven Mackintosh, Rafe Spall, Susan Lynch, Ewen MacIntosh 16 cert, IFI, Dublin, 93 min

HEARING THAT this English coming-of-age drama involves the writer of the lubricious TV show Skins, the frail reader could be forgiven for approaching the cinema with some trepidation. For most of its duration, however, The Scouting Book for Boysturns out to be an agreeably touching affair.

Directed by Tom Harper, hitherto a TV specialist, the film holds back the most devastating shocks until the last act as it allows its young characters to gradually reveal their half-formed neuroses. The audacious denouement is, as a result, that bit more surprising and affecting.

Thomas Turgoose, star of Shane Meadows's This Is England, appears as David, a troubled youth living in a Norfolk caravan park. Barely aware of his own disaffection, David spends his days messing about disused playgrounds and leaping the caravan roofs with his best pal Emily (a terrific Holly Grainger).

The idyll is broken when Emily’s boozy mum (Susan Lynch) announces that the child is being sent to live with her dad. Emily retires to a cave by the sea and – while the police comb ditches for her body – David supplies her with food and entertainment.

Scoutingdoes slip into a bit of a stupor in its middle section. But the classy personnel ensure that there is always something worth watching on screen. Rafe Spall is creepily funny as an older chum of Emily's who comes to be suspected of her murder, and Lynch – offering the odd suggestion of her namesake Bet – is touchingly bleary as the distraught mother.

The star of the film may, however, be our own Robbie Ryan. Once again, as in his work with Andrea Arnold, the cinematographer creates a hazy ambience that is both seductive and ominous. That sense of dread reaches maturity in a jarringly sudden change of tone that nudges the film towards the extraordinary. We’ll say no more. But the end is certainly worth waiting for.