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Lesson, The


Stars: Richard E Grant, Julie Delpy, Daryl McCormack, Stephen McMillan

Director: Alice Troughton

Here's a film that, after a careful build-up, and intriguing how-will-this-turn-out plotting, goes vividly melodramatic on us at the end.

Called in to coach Bertie (McMillan), the sullen son of famous writer Sinclair (Grant), to further the boy's chances of gaining a place at Oxford to study English literature, tutor and would-be novelist Liam (McCormack) walks into a mansion where household tensions are immediately apparent.

We see Sinclair raging at an interviewer who questions him about the suicide of his older son in the mansion's capacious lake (it even has a family of water voles), while Bertie proves difficult, and obviously both overwhelmed and undermined by his distinguished father, who himself has not written a book for five years.

At night, Liam rather improbably watches Mrs Sinclair (Delpy) submit frostily to her husband's cunnilingual demands. Her dalliance with Liam during Sinclair's absence is one of the more predictable stations in the plot's journey.

After Liam mends a computer glitch, Sinclair deigns to read a draft of the tutor's first novel, offering him his own latest work, just finished, in return. When Liam praises the book, but notes that the final chapter seems to be from a different novel, Sinclair angrily dismisses the tutor's work as 'airport fiction. You cannot write.'

With Mrs Sinclair's contrivance, Liam plots a slightly unlikely revenge.

Like the maestro's book, and despite carefully-wrought performances - Grant is in especially scathing form - the film seems to have a climax that barely belongs. Background music is rather too obtrusive at times.

David Quinlan

UK/Germany 2023. UK Distributor: Universal (Focus). Colour by Flying Colour Company.
101 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 19 Sep 2023