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Film Critique: ‘The Lesson’ offers a tangy twist on the literary thriller genre

by Sophia Chen
12 comments
The Lesson movie review

“The Lesson” immerses us in a grand and intricate landscape, just as elaborate as the gardens that adorn the lavish residence of a renowned author. The film narrates the intriguing tale of a mentor, a tutor, and a family dealing with grief, offering a captivating mix of entertainment and scholarly discourse.

In the hands of less skilled creators, this story could have easily become overly sentimental or overdramatic. But director Alice Troughton, writer Alex MacKeith, and composer Isobel Waller-Bridge chose to instill a playful subtlety in the backdrop of a gradually intensifying thriller. With “The Lesson”, it feels like everyone involved is subtly nudging the audience, teasingly treading on the thin boundary between being pretentious and provocative through the serious narrative.

Daryl McCormack, known for his roles in “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” and “Bad Sisters,” portrays Liam Sommers, an aspiring author who lands a job tutoring the son of globally acclaimed writer J.M. Sinclair (Richard E. Grant), who is also his literary hero. However, the movie opens with Liam on an elegant stage, discussing his debut novel about a declining patriarch and a family tormented by loss, a work hailed as one of the year’s most remarkable. The film explores the origins of his inspiration, a common interview question for authors.

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Artists often offer sanitized, brief versions of their inspirations, or even plausible sounding fabrications, when probed about it. J.M. Sinclair, in his YouTube interviews that Liam frequently views, subtly hints at the idea that all great authors “borrow” from others, though he would never openly admit any such appropriation. He is meticulous about the uniqueness of his work and his skill, making the audience anticipate a literary theft of sorts, but possibly not the one they expect.

It is a stark introduction to an author whom Liam has always admired. The cliché “Never meet your idols” rings true here.

Liam’s primary task is to help Bertie, a quiet and tormented Chalamet-like character, prepare for his Oxford English literature entrance exams. However, Liam has his own ulterior motives — he is composing a thesis on Sinclair and working on his own book. It’s puzzling why a family that demands utmost confidentiality would hire someone with such a conspicuous conflict of interest. It’s just one of the many enigmas the audience must decipher in this labyrinth of secrets, guilt, and scandals, which also hints at the suicide of the eldest Sinclair boy, a supposedly more talented writer than Bertie.

The trio of McCormack, Grant, and Delpy make a fascinating group to observe. Grant, known for his comedic prowess, is intimidating and irritable as this intellectual despot, ready to ruthlessly trample over anyone, like when he belittles Liam for not being a “real writer.” McCormack once again shines in the role of a clever, underestimated outsider, using his stealthy skills to his advantage at pivotal moments.

Despite the final act of the film being somewhat of an unexpected shift from the exciting suspense of the first two acts, as per Liam’s review of Sinclair’s newest book, “The Lesson” is certainly worth watching. It’s a well-constructed movie made for mature audiences who appreciate the nuances of rhododendron metaphors andcasual references to Tchaikovsky.

“The Lesson” is a theatrical release by Bleecker Street, scheduled for this Friday. It’s rated R by the Motion Picture Association for “language and some sexual content.” It has a running time of 104 minutes and earns two and a half stars out of four.


MPA’s R Rating Defined: Restricted. Individuals under 17 require an accompanying parent or adult guardian.


Follow Lindsey Bahr, AP Film Writer, on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about The Lesson movie review

Who are the director, writer, and composer of “The Lesson”?

Director Alice Troughton, writer Alex MacKeith, and composer Isobel Waller-Bridge are the talented trio behind “The Lesson.”

Who are the main actors in “The Lesson”?

The main actors in “The Lesson” are Daryl McCormack, who plays Liam Sommers, and Richard E. Grant, who plays renowned author J.M. Sinclair.

What is the main plot of “The Lesson”?

“The Lesson” tells the story of an aspiring writer, Liam Sommers, who becomes a tutor for the son of his literary idol, J.M. Sinclair. The film explores various secrets, guilt, and scandals within Sinclair’s family, set within a backdrop of a literary thriller.

What is the film’s rating and runtime?

“The Lesson” is rated R by the Motion Picture Association for “language and some sexual content.” The film’s runtime is 104 minutes.

When is “The Lesson” being released in theaters?

“The Lesson” is a Bleecker Street release and will be in theaters on the upcoming Friday.

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12 comments

graham_J July 6, 2023 - 7:54 am

i’m not a big fan of thrillers, but this one has got my attention. Director Alice Troughton’s works have always been impressive.

Reply
BenH July 6, 2023 - 4:48 pm

lol, a film with rhododendron metaphors and Tchaikovsky talk, definitely sounds unique, count me in!

Reply
CindyL July 6, 2023 - 5:11 pm

Richard E. Grant as an intellectual tyrant…Now that’s something I gotta see. Loved him in Can you ever forgive me.

Reply
Jess_S July 6, 2023 - 6:10 pm

Daryl McCormack, that guy’s a great actor, remember him in “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande”. This is gonna be good!

Reply
bookworm83 July 6, 2023 - 6:14 pm

Seems like a film for literature lovers like me, can’t wait for its release.

Reply
bookworm83 July 6, 2023 - 7:08 pm

Seems like a film for literature lovers like me, can’t wait for its release.

Reply
Jess_S July 7, 2023 - 12:46 am

Daryl McCormack, that guy’s a great actor, remember him in “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande”. This is gonna be good!

Reply
graham_J July 7, 2023 - 2:39 am

i’m not a big fan of thrillers, but this one has got my attention. Director Alice Troughton’s works have always been impressive.

Reply
Mike_D July 7, 2023 - 3:07 am

Wow! Sounds like a really interesting film, gotta check it out. Always been a fan of literary thrillers!

Reply
CindyL July 7, 2023 - 4:39 am

Richard E. Grant as an intellectual tyrant…Now that’s something I gotta see. Loved him in Can you ever forgive me.

Reply
Mike_D July 7, 2023 - 7:15 am

Wow! Sounds like a really interesting film, gotta check it out. Always been a fan of literary thrillers!

Reply
BenH July 7, 2023 - 12:45 pm

lol, a film with rhododendron metaphors and Tchaikovsky talk, definitely sounds unique, count me in!

Reply

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