The Lesson (2023)

The Lesson (2023)

Though ultimately unsatisfying, there are still intriguing highbrow patches in this psychological thriller

7.3

Movie

Germany, United Kingdom
English
Drama, Thriller
2023
ALICE TROUGHTON, FEMALE DIRECTOR
Crispin Letts, Daryl McCormack, Julie Delpy
103 min

TLDR

For ten marks, explain the significance of the shots of the robotic lawnmower (no seriously, because they’re mind-boggling).

What it's about

Aspiring writer Liam (Daryl McCormack) takes a summer job tutoring the son of a famous author, but finds himself caught up in the wealthy family’s thorny dynamics.

The take

Appropriately for its literary focus, The Lesson feels, in places, like the gripping adaptation of a bestselling psychological thriller. Unfortunately, though, its initial cleverness peters out in a contrived ending that ironically feels like it belongs to the pulpy airport fiction that one character accuses another of writing.

The Lesson’s early chapters (another way the movie’s form mirrors its content) crackle with tension, as Oxford grad and aspiring writer Liam observes the icy dynamics of the Sinclair family, whose son he’s been hired to provide university admission tuition to. The Sinclairs are still grieving the loss of another child, a process made more painful by the brittle ego of their patriarch — JM (Richard E. Grant), a celebrated author who happens to be Liam’s literary hero. Liam’s career ambitions complicate his position: he’s as much an enthusiastic student as he is a teacher here, and among the screenplay’s many suggestions is also Tom Ripley-style envy. The Lesson ultimately scuppers this complexity, though, as the writing eventually abandons its psychological study aspirations and swerves into melodrama, leaving the cast struggling to make it all believable. Still, while the ending may disappoint, there are juicy, intelligent ideas to be pondered over — not quite a bestseller, then, but definitely not airport fiction either.

What stands out

Two things: first, the cinematography. Frequently gorgeous, the camera often floats striking images that either subtly echo the script’s intriguing insinuations or offer up interesting suggestions of their own. Irrespective of the unsatisfying ending, The Lesson is also still worth a watch for the intellectual questions it asks about artistic ownership and the reasonable limits of literary inspiration. Again, the plot’s awkward left turn leaves some of these ideas by the wayside, but they’re thought-provoking enough to survive beyond the credits.

Comments

Add a comment

UP NEXT 

UP NEXT 

UP NEXT 

The Legend of Hei (2019)

A cat spirit learns about harmony in this Chinese animated fantasy drama

7.0

End of the Century (2019)

A quietly devastating queer romance that does everything with softness and sensitivity

8.5

Night of the Kings (2021)

A theatrical and truly original fantasy drama from Ivory Coast

7.6

Youth (Spring) (2023)

A terrific three-hour documentary that explores what young Chinese factory workers do in and out of work

7.8

The Zone of Interest (2023)

A chilling and masterful display of the banality of evil

9.5

Einstein and the Bomb (2024)

A dramatized depiction of Einstein’s own words against Nazism

6.0

Forgotten Love (2023)

The stunning third take of the classic Polish pre-war melodrama

7.7

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

A star-studded and riveting legal drama with a blockbuster feel.

8.1

The Guilty (2018)

A minimalist, razor-sharp thriller that will have you gasping for air.

9.0

Thank You, I’m Sorry (2023)

Estranged sisters reconnect amidst grief and bizarre comedy in this understated Swedish drama

6.5

Curated by humans, not algorithms.

agmtw logo

© 2024 agoodmovietowatch, all rights reserved.