Movie Review: 'The Lesson'

John Thomas

Before the camera at a British television interview, the famed and notoriously pompous writer, J.M. Sinclair proclaims: “Good writers copy, great writers steal.” He hasn’t written anything of late so has to build interest in his career and upcoming book by using his blustering ego and outlandish comments.

The aspiring young writer, Liam Sommers (Daryl McCormack), is watching the program. Liam has just been hired to coach Sinclair’s son, Bertie (Stephen McMillan), for the laters entry to Oxford. Bertie’s mother, Hélene Sinclair (Julie Delpy), has made the tutoring arrangements and presents Liam with piles of disclosure documents to sign upon his arrival at the sprawling country estate. After signing the documents, Liam is escorted to his quarters by the butler.

Bertie really doesn’t want to study for Oxford, Hélene can’t spare time from her consulting career to bother helping him and J.M. is too busy with his next book to care. Over time, however, Liam ingratiates himself into the family – in the classroom, writing room and bedroom. Hearing that Liam is also a writer, J.M. offers to read the first draft of his novel, even going so far as to allow Liam the chance to read his own work-in-progress.

Days later, the meeting in J.M.’s office goes smoothly until Liam mentions that the first part of J.M.’s book is wonderful, but the latter part lacks depth. J.M. is outraged and sighting of all matter of flaws shouts to Liam his book is terrible: “The work of an novice,” he continues. Liam takes his book to the pond at garden’s edge and page by page throws it into the water.

J.M. has to leave for a few days to show his finished book to his London publishers and begin promoting the work. While he’s away, rebellious behavior prevails at the estate. Bertie forgoes his studies, Hélene enjoys a new adventure, and Liam goes swimming in the pond where the Sinclairs’ other son drowned.

J.M. returns, excited that his new work was approved by his publishers – it’s time to celebrate! The following day, J.M. goes to his briefcase to retrieve his manuscript – it’s not there. He searches his office and the rest of the house – it’s nowhere. He almost tears his Jaguar apart looking for it – to no avail. Not only has the paper copy disappeared, but the book has also been deleted from his computer. There is nothing left – his book has vanished.

All is not lost, however. Liam has read the book and has a photographic memory. He remembers the book word-for-word, so he and J.M. sit down to rewrite it. All is good again. Later, Hélene calls Liam to the edge of the pond where she and the butler are pulling J.M.’s drowned body from the water. Bertie stands to the side drying himself off.

Hélene wants Liam gone before she summons the police. He gathers his things and leaves. Days later, it’s the same British TV show, the same interviewer, only this time there is a new rising author present to discuss his brilliantly written first novel. A smiling Bertie is sitting in the audience.

Directed by Alice Troughton (Credits: Baghdad Central, Tin Star) “The Lesson” runs 103 minutes and is a “should see” for well planned, surprisingly twisted thriller story.

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