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| 19 November 2018 | Reply

Written & directed by Heath Davis
Starring Alan Dukes, Tiriel Mora, Susan Prior, Airlee Dodds, Thuso Lekwape
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
8 ½ /10

Alan Dukes leads the cast of Book Week with a delightfully shabby performance as miserable novelist-turned English teacher Nick Cutler, a character who anyone familiar with the drudgery and disappointment of adulthood will instantly recognise.

Cutler was once a shining literary light, but a tendency towards self-sabotage, an inability to bite his tongue and play well with others, and failure to produce a follow-up to his lauded early work have led him in a dead-end job teaching troubled kids things most of them aren’t even interested in learning.

Despite his self-involved arrogance and scathing tongue, Cutler hasn’t quite given up, though. He is almost finished his latest work, which he thinks is pretty bloody good indeed (he considers himself an ‘undiscovered literary genius’), and much of the film revolves around his desperate clutching for a book deal which is being dangled in front of him by sickeningly hipster publishers, played for laughs by Toby Schmitz and Khan Chittenden.

Dukes plays his character straight, expertly eking out Cutler’s realisation that he needs to change his ways or he’s finished. Davis’ script ensures plenty of laughs come thick and fast from Cutler’s interactions with his sort-of girlfriend, head teacher Lee (Susan Prior), student teacher Sarah (Airlee Dodds) whom he drunkenly gets involved with, delinquent student Tyrell (played to stoned perfection by Thuso Lekwape) and jaded headmaster Tiriel Mora. His terminally ill brother in law adds a crucible to Cutler’s life, providing, ironically, hope and redemption if he is brave and selfless enough to take it.

The only place director Heath Davis misses the ball is with the relationship between Cutler and his star pupil, a goody-two-shoes with a novel of her own who is consumed by anger for her teacher and a desperate need for his validation. It implies there might be deeper feelings between the two, but it’s not explored or explained enough and becomes a one-dimensional irritation instead.

Setting the film during Book Week gives the main characters a hilarious opportunity to dress up as their favourite Book characters for the school, with Mora making a superbly striking Gandalf.

Written during his own purgatory biding time teaching high school English, Davis knows the terrain well and his excellent script and direction imbues this little world with humanity, pathos, dark humour and sympathy.

Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

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