The film revolves around Stet, the troubled boy prodigy, who has a stroke of good fortune and finds himself at a Boychoir school after the death of his mother. He struggles with a completely new environment and finds himself in a battle of wills with demanding Choir Master, Carvelle. The film follows Stet's journey to scale the heights of the American Boychoir. This choir is known as a prestigious and highly disciplined choir in America.
The cast is largely male. There are three main female characters; the well presented school principal providing a mentor role played by Debra Winger, opposite a mother who is broken and sadly addicted. There is no background into the sad mother's life. The other strong female is played by Kathy Bates, the feisty headmistress of the Boy Choir school.
Research has shown singing in a choir is a source of happiness. There are moments in the film that shine through, where that joy in singing resounds on screen. We see the demanding choir master Carvelle in the centre of the boys who are singing around him in a church like hall. The voices crescendo in glorious harmonies and the euphoria is written on Carvelle's face.
Carvelle played by Dustin Hoffman, plays off other authority figures at the Boychoir school. This is a man who has given his life to music, with the heir apparent, played by Eddie Izzard, waiting in the wings. There is something quite predatory about how performance mentors hone in on their students. My main criticism is that the elements and contrasts are overplayed. The motherless boy who acts out, the cold and unfeeling father, the rigid authority figures, there are not enough shades of grey. The story escalates, but in a predictable pattern.
This is a look into the world of an elite boychoir, which exposes the harsh competitive world of professional choirs. Along the way, the joy of music manages to steal the show.