The Young Poisoner's Handbook

1995

Comedy / Crime / Drama

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 87% · 15 reviews
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 84% · 1K ratings
IMDb Rating 7.0/10 10 3743 3.7K

Plot summary

Graham Young is a teenage misfit living in suburban London in the 1960s. He hates his stepmother but loves chemistry, and the two impulses unite in a wicked plot to slowly poison her. After she dies, he's found guilty and sent to a psychiatric hospital, where an idealistic doctor thinks he can be cured.



October 24, 2023 at 08:00 AM

Director

Benjamin Ross

Top cast

Jack Deam as Mick
Simon Kunz as John
Charlie Creed-Miles as Berridge
Malcolm Sinclair as Dr. Triefus
720p.WEB
914.87 MB
898*720
English 2.0
R
30 fps
1 hr 39 min
Seeds ...

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Nyssa 8 / 10

A funny, witty, and creepy glimpse inside genius gone horribly wrong.

Director Benjamin Ross has done a terrific job creating a humorously warped view of life through the eyes of Graham Young, alienated boy genius and serial poisoner. Hugh O'Conor perfectly portrays Graham's carefully studied innocent appearance, which Graham constantly feigns lest anyone find out what he is really thinking in his twisted, calculating mind. O'Conor manages the tricky job of looking innocent enough to fool the other characters, but maniacal enough that the audience always knows what is going on.

Through Graham's eccentric (to say the least) point-of-view, we witness the painfully mundane Young family, the pitifully easy to fool psychiatric and medical community, and the pathetically simple-minded middle-class. Ross captures the comic disdain with which Graham sees his surroundings without disposing of the distance necessary to be horrified at Graham's "experiments" and the fate of his unwitting subjects.

Because of Ross' careful tightrope walking between distance from and intimacy with Graham, the audience can't fully fall under Graham's spell and sympathize completely with him. There are some gruesome scenes of people reacting to poison, but these are necessary to heighten the audience's horror at Graham's incapability to assess his own actions and to recognize his own evil. Ross gives us an entertaining, yet twisted, glimpse into genius gone wrong, without sensationalizing Graham as a hero.

It is also very hard to go out for drinks or coffee after seeing this movie.

Reviewed by deloudelouvain 8 / 10

Be careful who's making your cuppa...

I really enjoyed The Young Poisoner's Handbook. Some people made the comparison with A Clockwork Orange from Stanley Kubrick and I can get where they come from if they mean the same tune they play a couple of times and also the fact that when Graham Young is getting institutionalized one doctor tries to cure him from his demons but other then that those two movies are completely different. While A Clockwork Orange was about a young man against society using ultra violence this one is about a young smart apathetic guy poisoning everybody he dislikes. Plus the fact that this movie is based on a true story while Kubrick's masterpiece was just fictional makes it totally useless to compare both movies. Nevertheless I thought Tobias Arnold as Graham Young gave a good performance as well as the other actors. Certainly worth a watch.

Reviewed by AlsExGal 8 / 10

Of Chemistry, Columbine, and cultural cowardice

This film seems to be a homage to Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange". It has a lot of deliberate "quotes", and shares similar themes and music. It's a kind of dialogue between the two directors, a reply. Clockwork Orange was speculative fiction, suggesting this is how society could become, whereas The Young Poisoner's Handbook is retrospective, and based on a true story, in effect saying we are already there, and were so ten years before Clockwork was made.

The story is based on the actual life of homicidal poisoner Graham Young, and doesn't do too much to hide that this is a biography, not some grim fictional noir. Graham narrates the entire film, and talks about how from childhood he really had nothing in common with his working class London family, but early on determines he has a talent for chemistry, and uses his experiments as an escape. By the time he is a teen, humankind consists of just so many lab rats as far as Graham is concerned. And Graham isn't interested in curing people, instead he wants to poison them. He turns his attention first to his stepmother, not that his sister Winnie escapes his chemical wrath entirely when her prying eyes get to be a problem as he slowly poisons dear old mom. Graham's solution - poison her eye drops and blind her. Fortunately he only disposes of one eye. Like the Mafia, none of this is personal for Graham, it's really just an experiment.

The great irony is that the law actually does catch Graham after he kills his stepmom, and he ends up in a place for the criminally insane, probably to be there forever as he is judged a sociopath. But one psychiatrist has other ideas. Graham interests him, and he decides to "cure" him. The doc overestimates the ability of science to defeat sociopathy, but Graham, at first intending to con the doc just to get out, gets tragically conned himself into believing himself eventually cured.

So after nine years Graham is released. But that's the thing about prison. Inmates - even in psychiatric prisons - usually do well as long as you supervise their every move - when they sleep, when they work and what they work on, when they eat. The problem is when they get out and have freedom of choice as to their own path. I'd normally say watch and find out what happens, but Columbine and cultural cowardice means you probably never will. After 1999, when some teens began to become lethal and to use the popular culture as a model for what form their killing would take, the movie industry began to fear giving them ideas. Thus I have not seen this film on TV for 20 years and the DVD is long out of print and something tells me this is NOT on Criterion's short list.

Artistically, this film is full of good performances and the art design gets the drab look of early 60s London just right. From the crowded housing, to the local pub, to the frumpy furnishings meant entirely for utility not for decoration, to the cheesy act that passes for early 60s British TV, this film has England of the period nailed. It even hints of the sexual revolution that happened while Graham was in jail and thus missed out on that just increases his social isolation and misreading of social cues.

I'd highly recommend this one if you can ever find it. It does pop up on youtube from time to time.

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