Plot: What’s it about?
Fin (Evan Bendall) is a teenager who lives with his older brother and has no other family in the picture. His brother isn’t cruel to him, but he does push him around and urges Fin to start his own life somewhere else. This is made all the worse by Fin’s deep crush on his brother’s girlfriend, Mia (Michaela Prchalova). His life at home isn’t that great, but at school he has friends and is part of a group, even if it isn’t a positive environment. His best friend is Joel (Rory Coltart), an angry and violent young man who lashes out at anyone around him, often for no real reason. The boys vandalize property, steal from stores, and torment other students, but lately their main target is someone else. One of their teachers, Mr. Gale (Robert Hands) has faced uninterested students for decades, but is just about at his end. This latest class of pupils couldn’t care less about learning, focusing on their phones and or in the case of Fin, Joel, and their friends, trying to torture the teachers. This reaches a boiling point when the boys verbally assault Mr. Gale and try to provoke a physical altercation with him. He is able to regain his composure, but Mr. Gale is obviously at a breaking point. After more random acts of cruelty, Fin and Joel start to walk home, only to be ambushed. When Fin wakes up, he is tied to a desk in a makeshift classroom, with Joel next to him, covered in blood. It appears Mr. Gale has found new methods with which to educate, but is this a lesson anyone will be able to survive?
The Lesson tries to deliver some social commentary wrapped in a torture porn ribbon, but does it work? The film presents both sides of the moral debate here, but struggles to present Fin as a sympathetic figure. After all, Mr. Gale has sacrificed his life to try to teach the youth, only to hit wall after wall in his efforts. We can understand why he is broken down, even if we don’t agree with his actions after he passes the line in the sand. Fin on the other hand has no real struggles in life, besides a brother who gives him some light abuse and a longing for someone else’s girlfriend. The film tries to give him some depth through brief flashbacks, but they do little to make him relatable or even likeable. Intentional or not, Mr. Gale is the hero of The Lesson and the movie basically prompts you to cheer for the comeuppance of the two sadistic teens. No one “wins” in this kind of situation, but the film fails to give us a lesson, ironic considering the title. I have to think the moral challenges are just there to deflect criticism over the violence, but the story is just not consistent at all. As far as the torture porn side of the coin, there is a lot of blood and cruelty, but the vast majority happens off screen. Not many moments of deep tension or uncomfortable anticipation as seen in similar films, but still squeamish folk will be taken aback. If you ignore the failed attempts at morality play and approach The Lesson like a twisted thriller with a great performance from the villain, you’ll set yourself for a better experience. Because the main draw in this movie is Robert Hands, who channels a wild and manic performance that deserves to be seen. I’m interested to see what both Hands and director Ruth Platt do next, as there is obviously a lot of potential there.
Video: How’s it look?
The Lesson is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen. The film has a dank, gritty texture in terms of visual design and that is upheld well in this treatment. The image looks rock solid throughout, but isn’t intended to look sleek and polished. So once you understand the movie is supposed to look this way, you appreciate the visuals more. I found contrast to good, but a touch dark, while colors are fine, just skewed a touch but that is intentional. That decision to dampen colors really makes the blood pop in the torture scenes, which adds some extra punch. Not much else to discuss here really, the film uses a gritty visual design and this transfer ensures it looks as it should.
Audio: How’s it sound?
A DTS HD 5.1 soundtrack is on deck and while not remarkable, it gets the job done. The front channels are used for most of the audio and I noticed no issues. I found dialogue to be well mixed and never hard to pick up, while other sound effects were the same, clear and clean. The production limitations show at times, as the audio isn’t as polished as it could be, but everything is in place and no serious problems surface. The surrounds do come to life from time to time, but in minor strokes that just add a little extra presence to the tense scenes. This disc also includes a 2.0 soundtrack, as well as English subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
A trailer for the movie is included, but that’s the extent of the extras.