The Lesson is a passable Yuppie NightmareMike Finnerty 19 Sep 2023
One of the hardest things for a film to pull off is to be a 3-star film.
It needs one element that works really well (in this instance, the acting) to make it worth recommending, and that needs to be balanced out by one element that undermines the whole project (in this case, the script does the work.)
The Lesson is a frustrating film to review, because the good parts make the film worth watching, but the bad parts make you want to tear your hair out.
The Lesson follows rising Irish star Daryl McCormack, an aspiring novelist who tutors the son of his favourite author, played by Richard E. Grant.
McCormack’s character Liam is tasked with getting Bertie, the author’s son, into Oxford, and becomes a live-in tutor for the family.
As the film progresses, Liam finds himself becoming more and more entrenched in the secrets and mysteries of the family and to the film’s credit, it is pretty well-paced.
McCormack, so brilliant in last year’s Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, shows why he is one of Ireland’s hottest young talents, and after going pound-for-pound with Emma Thompson last year he effortlessly holds his own against Richard E. Grant and Julie Delpy in this film.
The film sings when McCormack and Grant share scenes together, and the fun of the film is seeing McCormack trying to figure out what mood Grant is in.
Grant’s temperament changes from scene to scene, in one scene he’s a loving father and a supportive mentor, and in the next, he’s a vindictive, nasty grump.
Delpy is the engine of the small cast, and her cold and icy demeanour masks some secrets and suspicions.
The interplay between the three actors gives The Lesson a passing grade, but it undermines itself with a plot that isn’t as clever as it thinks it is.
The idea of a schemer working their way into the inner workings of a family unit will be familiar to anyone who has seen Parasite, and unlike Bong Joon-Ho’s Oscar-winning great, it doesn’t quite have the satirical or dark comedy edge to tie it all together.
In watching The Lesson, there is the feeling the film is paradoxically top-heavy with its plot elements, but also missing a certain something.
Director Alice Troughton, making her directorial debut, gets the most out of the cast, and The Lesson is a spirited attempt at creating a Hitchcockian domestic thriller.
Troughton does a nice job of creating atmosphere, and the gorgeous house where the action takes place is very pleasing to the eye while also playing an important part in the plot of the film.
Films such as Fatal Attraction, Sleeping With The Enemy and Pacific Heights come to mind when watching The Lesson, and indeed this is a solid entry into a genre nicknamed the Yuppie Nightmare.
The Lesson is a welcome relief from the seemingly endless and monotonous franchise drivel that is made in the modern era, and it is nice to see an original film with some thought put into it being shown on cinema screens, but there is nothing in The Lesson that you haven’t seen done better elsewhere.
For a film that deals with ripping off other people’s work as a plot point, The Lesson could be accused of copying the homework of other, better films.