19th Aug2015

Frightfest 2015: ‘The Lesson’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Robert Hands, Evan Bendall, Michaela Prchalová, Rory Coltart, Joshua Wedge | Written and Directed by Ruth Platt


Very much a reflection of modern society, especially given the film was inspired by a real life event when a teacher, after 20 years of teaching – with no prior episodes of anger or violence – suddenly lost it with a child in class; The Lesson tells the story of Fin and Joel, two teenage wasters running wild in an arid rural landscape. But their bad education is about to take a turn for the intellectual best as someone at the end of their tether has decided to teach both schoolboys a lesson they will never forget.

Now I don’t know about you, but I thought high school was torture… However The Lesson takes that idea to the extreme. Made on a budget of just £27k, this film is, at its most basic level, a role-reversal on the themes found in 2010’s Frightfest flick (and a personal favourite), Johannes Roberts’ F. Here it’s the put-upon teacher who snaps and takes out his anger on the two students causing the most havoc in his class. And I don’t blame him!

The kids of The Lesson are total bastards of the highest order. The idiotic kind of teenagers you see on Facebook et al., filming themselves beating the living crap out of other kids. Although it’s a credit to writer/director Ruth Platt that you eventually become sympathetic to the plight of these kids – bastards that they are – and instead of applauding their ‘teacher’ for giving them a lesson they’ll never forget, you instead will them to survive this ordeal. Although if torture is what it takes to make some kids learn, as it does for these kids, I’m all for it (joking, honest).

Honestly, the tagline for The Lesson couldn’t be more apt here: “Only the Educated are Free.” Free in the sense that education lets you escape the shackles of society and become more than the class you were born into (in theory) and, in this  films case, more literally. It will take all the kids skills – and will – to answer their psychotic teacher’s questions and live to tomorrow. Because one wrong answer… let’s just say it’s not pretty and involves numerous household objects and tools, including a nail gun!

But this is not just a story about a teacher taking vengeance on his students. Running alongside Platt’s tale of a teacher gone mad is a very strange, some would say twisted, love story that has shades of Harmony Korine’s Kids and the working class social-realist dramas of the likes of Ken Loach. It’s that love story, that drama, that ultimately is the real story of The Lesson. And it’s a credit to the films cast, in particular Evan Bendall and Michaela Prchalová – as Fin and Mia respectively – that the touching relationship that underpins the film far outways the horrific aspects of these kids tortuous lesson…

***½  3.5/5

An interesting combination of torture flick and social realist drama, The Lesson screens at Frightfest on Monday 31st August at 10.30am in Discovery Screen 1.


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