Writer director Ninian Doff carries forward his filmmaking flair from music videos into his feature debut Boyz in the Wood, a coming-of-age comedy set in the Scottish Highlands. The story follows four teenagers as they embark on an orienteering trip, competing for the coveted Duke of Edinburgh award. Misfits miscreants Dean (Rian Gordon), Duncan (Lewis Gribben), and DJ Beatroot (Viraj Juneja) are joined by do-gooder Ian (Samuel Bottomley) for the great adventure, but they soon run into trouble when they lose their map and encounter some eccentric, unwelcoming locals.
Experimenting playfully with the visual style of the movie, Doff uses choppy cutaway editing to help introduce the pals and a brilliantly trippy psychedelic sequence that illustrates his aesthetic artistry. He achieves a deliberate film-school vibe that works well with the nature of the piece, but there’s some amateurishness to his craft that’s less intentional, chiefly in the slight attempts at social satire and the underdevelopment of the characters. The gang have an interesting dynamic that’s enjoyable to watch for the most part, and there’s joy to be had in their juvenile exchanges, but individually they’re as paper-thin and flimsy as their navigational skills. The physical gags are far more effective, with some hilarious moments as their expedition goes increasingly awry.
Sporting an exuberant soundtrack and a consistently funny script, Doff delivers a solid indie debut. The preposterous plot is just about kept in check by a spattering of first-rate performances, particularly from the veteran performers such as Kate Dickie and Eddie Izzard who appear to revel in their madcap cameos. Boyz in the Wood is a barnstorming crowd-pleaser.