Film Review: THE LESSON (directed by Alice Troughton – World Premiere at Tribeca Film Festival)

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by Kevin Vavasseur on June 17, 2023

in Film


Well-educated but struggling young writer Liam (superb Daryl McCormack) is very admiring of wealthy, well-respected, British novelist J.M. Sinclair (dazzling Richard E. Grant). Through an unexpected turn of events, Liam is hired as a literature tutor for Sinclair’s teenage son as preparation for his college exams. Liam soon moves into Sinclair’s beautiful country home outside of London where he meets Sinclair’s restrained wife Hélène (captivating Julie Delpy). As Liam helps the son Bertie (moving Stephen McMillan) and builds a working relationship with his literary idol, it soon becomes evident this young writer may be in the house for more reasons than education.

Richard E. Grant, Daryl McCormack, Julie Delpy, Stephen McMillan
(Anna Patarakina, courtesy of Bleecker Street)

Screenwriter Alex MacKeith’s darkly comic, modern-day, noir tale grabs the audience right at the top and doesn’t let go until its very surprising end. Between is a well-plotted cat-and-mouse game that is equally funny and suspenseful. Alice Troughton’s incandescent direction (especially impressive as this is her first feature) expertly maneuvers this intricate puzzle film that takes on themes of artistic integrity, ego, abuse, loss, redemption, grief, truth and creative survival. Anna Patarakina’s cinematography shoots with a sense of humor and surprise that supports the writing; utilizing subtle, visual reveals and unique angles. And while there are comic moments throughout, the production doesn’t pull back from depicting some hard truths about human relations and creative ambition. It’s a 2023 version of the femme fatale/naïve young man/duplicitous older man triangle that hits the mark in delivering an adult story for an adult audience. One could say they don’t make ‘em like this anymore but, apparently, they do. And The Lesson is the witty, intelligent, satisfying proof.

Julie Delpy, Daryl McCormack
(Gordon Timpen, courtesy of Bleecker Street)

The Lesson
feature | UK, Germany | 102 minutes | English
more info at Bleecker Street

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