||THE HISTORY BOYS, a clever look at a British school system's attempts to produce Oxford and Cambridge-worthy graduates, is based on the play of the same title by Alan Bennett. Bennett's play provides an interesting springboard for a film about youth, growing up, education, identity, and the complexities of the student-teacher relationship. Set in Sheffield, England, in the early 1980s, the story follows a class of college-bound high-school boys as they prepare for the rigorous entrance exams. Feeling the boys need grooming beyond what the absurd Mr. Hector (Richard Griffiths) and sarcastic Mrs. Lintott (Frances De La Tour) can offer, the headmaster (Clive Merrison) brings in Mr. Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore) to fill in the gaps. As a finishing school teacher of sorts, it becomes Irwin's job, through innovative history lessons and bold techniques, to turn children into men. But like his colleagues, Mr. Irwin is not without doubts and of his own, and his inevitable attraction to one of his students is something that he continually struggles with.^Not what you'd expect from a film about teenagers, the story veers away from traditional notions of youthful rebellion, instead focusing on more mature issues of sexual orientation, life philosophies, and mortality. The film's cast of truly talented actors is headed by Richard Griffiths, whose performance as the tragically flawed yet loveable Mr. Hector forms much of the story's heart. Each student is played to perfection by young actors who include Samuel Barnett, Dominic Cooper, James Corden, and Russell Tovey. Filled with intellectual horsing around, rampant homosexual tension, and particularly lenient faculty, this day school appears to have little in common with the typical American high school. THE HISTORY BOYS should be especially refreshing to American audiences used to seeing adolescence exploited as it so often is in today's gross-out comedies.