The Lesson (2015)
Director: Ruth Platt
Starring: Robert Hands, Evan Bendall, Michaela Prchalová, Dolya Gavanski, Tom Cox & Rory Coltart
Released by: Scream Factory
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
Imported from England, The Lesson offers a promisingly taut setup of reprimanded disobedience from first time filmmaker Ruth Platt before shades of familiarity untether its agenda. When disrespectful students Fin (Evan Bendall and Joel (Rory Coltart) push the limits of their rowdy classroom behavior too far, their English teacher Mr. Gale (Robert Hands, Charlotte Gray) vows to educate them at terrifying costs. Kidnapped and bound to a table, Mr. Gales’ unorthodox teaching methods subjects the conscious Fin to a rapid-fire scurry of definition searches met with nails impaled through his bloodied hands should time run out. Waxing intellectual on a variety of topics from Charles Dickens to totalitarianism, Fin’s hallucinations of his deceased mother and a blood splattered Joel assisting his captor clouds his thinking that will be essential to his survival. Developing commendable character development of the troubled youths including Fin’s broken home situation and lust for his older brother’s girlfriend Mia (Michaela Prchalová), The Lesson’s true tour de force belongs to Robert Hands whose motives may be simplistic and monologues occasionally longwinded, demands the viewers strictest attention like a whip-wielding dictator. Achieving moments of genuine suspense, The Lesson ultimately feels all too familiar to the tired torture-horror antics popularized in America over a decade ago with only the witty nuttiness of its antagonist truly separating itself from the pack.
Scream Factory presents The Lesson with a 1080p transfer, preserving its 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Shot digitally, skin tones are immaculately handled while, tight shots exposing sweat beads, dripping blood and Mr. Gale’s fogged eyeglasses are all sharply detailed. Although flashbacks presented in black and white are relayed with an expected deepness, instances of digital artifacts creep their way into several sequences that while not deal-breaking, surely make their presence known. Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that prioritizes dialogue (with the optional English subtitles coming in handy for some of the actors’ thicker accents), the agonizing screams of the film’s victims to the quieter ambiance at Fin’s home and surrounding neighborhood streets demonstrate the effective ranges of the track. In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix is also included. Virtually nonexistent, the film’s Trailer (1:38) serves as the sole on-disc special feature while, a Reversible Cover Art is also provided. Not quite the arthouse shocker it’s hailed as, The Lesson demonstrates the encouraging chops of its maker while, its delivery of imprisoned hooligans subjected to torturous enlightenment grows faint quickly and stands as a reminder of a recycled genre already beaten to death. Worthy of commendation for Hands’ performance and well-handled development of its youthful characters, The Lesson doesn’t teach anything new but, makes a strong case for respecting educators who are dying to inspire young minds.