The Lesson: Film Review -Cunard British Film Festival 2023
Wed 01 Nov 2023 - Wed 29 Nov 2023
Arriving at a country estate, Liam (Daryl McCormack) can't believe his luck. The aspiring novelist has wrangled a tutoring job and the large house and landscape-painting-worthy gardens before him will be his home for the summer. Liam's been hired to help a teenager named Bertie (played by Stephen McMillan) get into Oxford to read English. Bertie's got an impressive pedigree - his father is revered author JM Sinclair (Richard E Grant). Liam's a fan and hopes to learn from the great writer. So begins The Lesson
, a slow-simmering tale of ambition and family dysfunction, playing nationally as part of the Cunard British Film Festival.
Before Liam can pursue his literary dreams he must deal with Bertie's mother, Helene (Julie Delpy), a worldly art dealer who manages the day-to-day running of the family. And fairly quickly Liam senses that the family is not a cohesive, loving unit. This is confirmed when Sinclair arrives at the dinner table and proves abrupt and frightening. But Liam muddles through and soon he's happily in a routine of working on his own writing at night and tutoring Bertie by day.
But eventually the pall hanging over the family weighs on Liam as well. Much of the discontent is attributable to the accidental death of Bertie's older brother, a tragedy which no one in the family has ever really recovered from. Still, Sinclair continues working, hoping his new novel, if he can ever finish it, will prove a fitting tribute to his dead son. Bertie is likewise distracted trying to follow his parents' wishes by gaining entry to Oxford. Helene carries on too, filling her house with art and managing er husband's moods. But Liam's presence has shifted something and where the family was previously just off-kilter now they are dangerously lost.
There are some fine performances in The Lesson
. Richard E Grant (who else could play a stuck-up British novelist so well?) is particularly watchable, as is Daryl McCormack as Liam, a character with more depth, whose shifting intentions drive much of the story forward. Julie Delpy as Helene is also wonderful as the grieving mother and wife.
The result is a film that's very watchable, if not entirely convincing - especially when the climax nears and the twists stack up rapidly. But what the film lacks in substance it makes up for in style, its scenes composed elegantly, the stirring piano score ratcheting louder with every passing minute as the house and the garden and everything they represent wither in front of Liam's eyes. The Lesson
isn't flawless, but it's pleasing enough to get lost in.
The Lesson is screening nationally as part of the Cunard British Film Festival 2023. Find session times, screening locations and tickets on the festival's official website .
267870 - 2023-11-02 02:48:25