DIRECTOR Ruth Platt WRITER Ruth Platt STARS Robert Hands; Evan Bendall; Michaela Prchalová DIGITAL 29 February
With a handheld, urban style of camera that immediately recalls the like of Ben Wheatley and Shane Meadows, fellow Brit and first-time writer-director Ruth Platt has crafted a neat little movie that touches on current issues and social fears of wild youth, lack of education and respect and the dumbing down of society.
Fin is on the cusp of turning sixteen, a lonely boy with childhood memories of a mother who is no longer in his life. With his father working overseas, he lives with his older brother Jake, who shows very little interest in him. The only source of affection in his life comes from Jake’s girlfriend, Mia, and several early scenes between the two of them show a blossoming love from Fin that is sadly not reciprocated. Disillusioned, he creates havoc at school with friend Joel, in particular terrorising English teacher Mr. Gale (Robert Hands).
An early scene where Gale attempts to reinforce the meaning of Lord of the Flies to a class of rampaging teens is an obvious connection, and he proceeds to enlist extreme measures to teach his beloved literature and language with methods of fear and torture on the two friends. Platt here creates the centrepiece lesson of the title during a long scene that is by turns sinister and darkly funny. “If you scream out again I shall hit you in the head with this iron adjective hammer noun…” Well written, and perhaps the first time ever that Dickens and a nail gun have ever been linked, Hands in particular shines in the role here.
Like most debuts, there are flaws. A pointless subplot with Mia’s family is started then forgotten, and Platt feels the need to tack on a final scene that wraps things up neatly but in doing so spoils any final opinion the viewer might have. However, by and large The Lesson is a squirm-inducing, low-budget thriller that may make you look at a dictionary differently, and certainly marks Platt as a talent to watch.