Director: Ruth Platt
Cast: Robert Hands, Evan Bendall, Michaela Prchalová, Dolya Gavanski, Rory Coltart.
Released: DVD July 11th 2016.
Reviewed By: Stu Laurie.
It’s not unusual in modern society to hear about students that have snapped and attacked teachers in schools and colleges, but what happens if the tables are flipped (proverbially speaking)? The Lesson, the debut feature from actress Ruth Platt, examines the mental decline of a teacher that is subjected to undermining delinquency and an utter lack of respect in his classroom. Unfortunately whilst the topic may be a poignant one, the final product only gets a D Grade.
The Lesson focuses on two disrespectful and unruly school students, Fin (Bendall) and Joel (Coltart) who make their disdain for school life evident to everybody, including their long suffering teacher Mr Gale (Hands). As Mr Gale struggles to cope with the day to day abuse within his classroom he snaps and takes the two boys hostage in order to teach them a lesson they will never forget, through methods Ofsted would never condone.
The Lesson takes a while to hit it’s stride and the first quarter of the film focuses mainly on laying a huge amount of groundwork that isn’t necessarily needed. As we navigate through teenage boy hormones and banter we get an understanding that these boys are discontent with their lives. We see the age old scenario where kids are bored and act out, however in this instance it isn’t just a detention that is waiting for them at the end of the day. The end of the day seems to take forever to come, however and some determination is needed on behalf of the viewer to make it to the inciting incident that leads us to the blood, gore and guts of the film.
Don’t get us wrong, good backstory and plot/character development are excellent but in this circumstance it feels too much like filler in the first 30 minutes of the film. even with the filler, we are still not given a huge amount of background or character development other than the fact that Fin is discontent with his existence, and Joel is a gobby little terror. The Lesson feels as if it wants to offer the audience more, something deeper than the usual slasher/revenge flick but it ever quite reaches what it strives towards.
This aside, The Lesson does provide an interesting take on the genre, and rather than simply go for gore their is some psychology and English literature on offer. Once Mr Gale has kidnapped the children there is some impressive torture to feast on, and some beautiful literature quotes however it’s difficult to take Mr Gale’s pain and obvious suffering seriously because of the bizarrely caricature-esque performance by Hands. It just feels awkward and clunky in a film where there is true potential to provide an original and raw character to a genre that is filled with off the wall, violent antagonists. Both Coltart and Bendall provide some solid performances when they hit the torture scenes, and do the best they can with everything surrounding it.
The torture scenes are interspersed with art-house style black and white flash backs and fantasies that juxtapose against the violence in a way that is completely unnecessary. It provides the film with a strange, jarring pace that makes it difficult to settle into the film. This isn’t helped by the elongated ending that seems to go on and on, tying up loose ends that didn’t need to be there. The relationship between Fin, his brother and his brother’s girlfriend is peculiar and totally irrelevant. It would seem that the plot point was put there to add some substance and underlying emotion to the film but it just feels like off balance fodder. The issues that the brothers girlfriend then has with her mother come from out of the blue and serve absolutely no purpose.
What is even more incredulous is the random sex scene at the end of the film. Why? Why is this here? Just end the film already!
The Lesson falls short of the potential that it had. With off kilter pacing and bizarre storytelling, combined with an off-the-wall and bizarre performance by the antagonist, it would appear that The Lesson needs to go back to film school and re-sit the exams.
If peculiar torture-porn films are your thing, The Lesson is now on sale on DVD.