Dir: Ruth Platt
Starring: Robert Hands, Evan Bendall, Michaela Prcjalová
UK Release TBC
Plot: Fin (Bendall) is in his last year of school. He’d rather be out causing mischief with his friends, getting away from the house he shares with his brother and his girlfriend, Mia (Prcjalová). School is the last thing he could care about, much to the disappointment of his English teacher, Mr Gale (Hands). Gale despairs as his classroom runs riot and his pupils being either abusive towards him or apathetic. A night out raising hell with his friend Jake ends unexpectedly for Fin as he is knocked out and wakes up tied to a desk. Mr Gale has come to the end of his tether and has decided to make Fin learn something, even if it’s pain at the wrong end of a nail gun.
The Lesson was introduced at Fright Fest as being the smartest film in this year’s line up. I can’t deny that proclamation because The Lesson is definitely a thinker. It focuses on education in equal message to it’s focus on torture. Robert Hands portrayal of Mr Gale shows a man desperate to open the mind of the youth who he is so close to writing off entirely. He is a broken idealist. The nature of The Lesson is a discussion about the nature of good and evil, about the nature of mankind. It poses a lot of tough questions.
The film is very interesting and I feel like I will need to give it a few more viewings to get the most from it. However it’s the kind of film that I feel might be demonising today’s youth a bit too much. I had my fair share of disruptive kids in my classes when I was at school but I don’t think any of them could psychologically break someone. Kids are easy to write off as monsters, but perhaps I haven’t taken into account what 20 years of disappointment and abuse does to a person in the form of Mr Gale.
Fin is essentially a chav in this movie and Mr Gale comes off very pious, his education making him superior. He wants to raise Fin closer to his level because he believes he is bestowing a gift, but at the same time he is stating that Fin is beneath him. It’s an odd dynamic because with torture films you have to take a side. Fin is the sympathetic one with his messed up home life. Mr Gale is the one who has a goal to achieve, the education of youth even if it goes against their will.
The Lesson gives us a new spin on the torture sub-genre with a welcomed dose of intellectualism that is usually absent in films that focus on meaningless pain. The only major disappointment I had was that the film wraps up all too quickly and messily, ending sub-plots almost illogically. It seemed very rushed and I would have easily watched an extra half hour of The Lesson if it would have ended a little more neatly.