Netflix announced this morning that it will release John Butler’s heart-warming coming-of-age drama Handsome Devil on its global platform from July 20th.
Ned (Fionn O’Shea), the bullied outsider, and Conor (Nicholas Galitzine), a new boy and star athlete, are forced to room together at their cloistered boarding school. Conor is drafted into the senior rugby team, whose actions dominate school life and whose privilege and entitlement have made Ned’s s life to date at the school a misery. The boys take an instant and visceral dislike to each other, and Ned and Conor seem destined to remain enemies until an English teacher Mr. Sherry (Andrew Scott) begins to drill into them the value of finding one’s own voice. This lesson isn’t appreciated by everyone, though, not least the rugby coach, Pascal (Moe Dunford), who has his own agenda , and who harbours some deep suspicions about Sherry.
Handsome Devil stars Fionn O’Shea (The Siege of Jadotville) and Nicholas Galitzine (High Strung) as Ned and Conor respectively, with support from an all-star Irish cast that includes Andrew Scott (Sherlock, The Stag), Moe Dunford (Vikings, Patrick’s Day), Amy Huberman (Striking Out, The Stag), Michael McElhatton (The Siege of Jadotville, Game of Thrones), Ardal O’Hanlon (Father Ted, Twice Shy), and Hugh O’Connor (The Stag, Chocolat). It was produced by Rebecca Flanagan and Rob Walpole for Treasure Entertainment, with support from the Irish Film Board.
Having struck the deal with Netflix after the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, producers Rebecca Flanagan and Rob Walpole are glad the cat is finally out of the bag “We have struggled with keeping this exciting news to ourselves for so long! We are thrilled with the global Netflix deal.”
The deal with Netflix meant that the window for domestic release and the theatrical releases in markets closer to home were more limited. This was a difficult decision to make for the producers and director, but it allowed them to put the film in front of as many potential viewers as possible. As director John Butler puts it “This deal followed hard on the heels of TIFF last autumn, and was a very tricky decision for us to make. The nature of such a deal is that it limits your domestic theatrical release considerably.”
To put this into context a little bit, the film was released in Irish cinemas in late April screening at 32 venues of a possible 74. As Butler puts it “Many in Ireland and the UK were wondering why Handsome Devil didn’t manage to reach a cinema near them. In the end this sacrifice was weighed up against the opportunity to reach a global audience and we’re very grateful to have such a prestigious platform for this film.”
The Netflix versus theatrical debate is one that has gathered much coverage online in recent months. Handsome Devil is one of those that managed to have both, releasing in cinemas in Ireland, the UK, and elsewhere globally including the US. Despite making the deal with Netflix so early, the producers are pleased with how its played out “We felt that is was important to try to bring this story to as wide an audience as possible. And while it limited what we could domestically from a theatrical point of view, we felt that the global opportunity was irresistible. And given the limitations, we are also delighted with what an amazing job both Icon and Eclipse did in Ireland and UK in getting this film to a theatrical audience.”
Netflix have been reluctant to screen their exclusive and internally-produced films into cinemas, but that has been changing a little in the last year. Following a premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh last July Richie Smyth’s Irish-produced The Siege of Jadotville did receive a limited cinema release in Ireland, while Bong-Joon Ho’s Okja had a similar limited release in the UK last week.
The streaming network has also quietly been building up a catalogue of Irish films, which now features last year’s smash-hit comedy The Young Offenders, documentary Hostage to the Devil, Oscar nominees Brooklyn and The Lobster, horrors From The Dark, Boy Eats Girl, and The Hallow, dramas Bloody Sunday, Sing Street, and Ondine, and comedies Standby, Gold, Grabbers, Love and Friendship, and The Boys and Girl from County Clare. TV series and movies like Jack Taylor, An Klondike (Dominion Creek), Puffin Rock, and most recently Free Rein are also available to audiences worldwide.