The Lesson

  • 30 Sep - 06 Oct, 2023
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

The message conveyed by "The Lesson" is quite straightforward: "Great writers draw inspiration from others." This philosophy appears to be embraced by writer Alex MacKeith and director Alice Troughton, who, despite her extensive involvement with "Doctor Who" (it's worth noting that she is not related to the Second Doctor), have crafted a film that draws from a diverse range of influences, most notably Bong Joon-ho's "Parasite." "The Lesson" revolves around the journey of an aspiring author, portrayed by Daryl McCormack, who is hired to provide Oxford admissions tutoring to the son of the esteemed writer J.M. Sinclair, played by Richard E. Grant. While residing in an outbuilding on the Sinclair family's estate, he becomes intimately connected with the family and delves into the hidden sources of Sinclair's creative inspiration.

While "The Lesson" treads familiar territory, it doesn't offer any surprising plot twists. Yet, this predictability can be quite enjoyable, particularly when in the hands of such skilled actors. McCormack, known for his role opposite Emma Thompson in "Good Luck To You, Leo Grande," brings a delightful depth to his character, infusing him with a Shakespearean aura that's reminiscent of Hamlet. In fact, the parallels with Hamlet are abundant, with Grant relishing his role as the sinister Claudius-like patriarch, and Julie Delpy delivering a scintillating performance as Sinclair's art-seller wife Gertrude.

The dynamic between these three actors, along with Stephen McMillan's commendable portrayal of the Sinclairs' son, creates a tantalizing experience, perfect for a leisurely Sunday afternoon. Troughton, the director, displays promise in her command of the film's stylistic elements. The film elegantly mirrors J.M. Sinclair's fondness for Russian composers through Isobel Waller-Bridge's score, featuring a mock-Shostakovich waltz repeated throughout, which complements Anna Patarakina's polished cinematography. Between the remarkable acting and artistic tableaux inspired by the likes of Monet and Millais, combined with a breathless montage expertly edited by Paulo Pandolpho, "The Lesson" possesses a delectably dark quality, akin to savoring a fine claret while indulging in reruns of Poirot.

McCormack, Grant, and Delpy waltz through this stylish albeit somewhat derivative slow-burn thriller with finesse. It's best enjoyed with a generous glass of red wine and a touch of playful irony.