6 out of 10
Release date: 29th February 2016 (DVD premiere)
Director: Ruth Platt
Cast: Robert Hands, Evan Bendall, Michaela Prchalova, Rory Coltart, Tom Cox, Dolya Gavanski, Joshua Wedge and Charlotte Croft
Writer: Ruth Platt
This is an interesting film. This gorno isn’t perfect, but it has got ambition and the confidence and an ounce of intelligence to get some rather good points across. In a way The Lesson teaches the viewer a thing or two about going into films like this with low expectations. This potentially rote little splatter flick turned out to be the product of a filmmaker that is committed to squirrelling an effective little allegory in the back way. It’s an allegory but I won’t tell you what for, but its nice that someone has really thought about the job at hand for once, instead of delivering yet another found-footage bore.
Well shot and directed by first timer Ruth Platt, this simple story tells of two brothers – the eldest Jake (TOM COX) who goes to work, whilst Fin (EVAN BENDALL) is still at high school age. Tom’s polish girlfriend Mia (MICHAELA PRCHALOVA) also lives with them in their council estate house. Fin hangs with bad company at school, and along with his best mate Joel (RORY COLTART) makes their English teacher’s Mr Gale (ROBERT HANDS – EASTENDERS) life a living hell. After a particularly bad day Gale, takes the two lads hostage and gives them both a lesson they’ll never forget.
The Lesson takes its time establishing the characters well-enough that although Fin is a turd, we know why he acts the way he does at school. It’s strange not to position the teacher as a figure of sympathy, rather its Fin who becomes this. Gale holds all the cards as he tests the two boys on their knowledge of English literature whilst doling out a set of grisly forfeits. Gale is presented as more complex too, he gets picked on, on a particularly bad day, so the fact that he snaps is given some weight. The only innocent in the story is Mia. She clearly prefers the younger brother’s personality, but is beholden to Jake because he has given her sanctuary from her own very real problems. So when Mia goes out to search for the missing Fin and Joel, Jake takes exception. It portrays most of the characters as bottom feeders, who are seen as soft for any act of kindness. Any lightness is crushed. The main characters are given flesh and blood roles, it’s just the supporting characters (who are mercifully few) who haven’t been coloured in.
The story spends time to build a good character dynamic, so it’s actually a shame that this turns into a gory horror spree at all, as it could have been something like The Goob or Dead Man’s Shoes. But even when it does it still works, all though it’s a little bit cartoonish at times. Sadly some of the lead performers are a touch wooden and the unknown cast, who have been gifted a half-decent script slip and slide. Uneven performances render the film unconvincing on occasion and because of this fact, the film suffers and becomes a missed opportunity. Better performers would have made this one to recommend. But as I said, largely it works. Another down point is the unbelievable consequence that takes place that results with Mia tracking down the boys’ whereabouts. Other wise The Lesson had a good ending and a satisfying coda. As downbeat as The Lesson is, is that its a story of greys, no black and whites. The director has a nice ear for a soundtrack, and a good eye for a shot, so hopefully we’ll see something else from her again one day.
6 out of 10 – Thoughtful and impressive gorno, which benefits from a good plot, script and several committed performances give this the extra gusto to make it way above average for this kind of thing.
WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?
- Robert Hands: Eastenders (TV), The House of Eliott (TV), Grange Hill (TV)