5 min read

Friday 12 July 2024 THE LESSON @ Rose Ash Village Hall

A taut noir thriller of literary larceny starring Richard E Grant
Friday 12 July 2024 THE LESSON @ Rose Ash Village Hall
Average writers attempt originality. The greats - the great writers: steal.

£5. Doors open 7pm. Film starts 7.30pm. BYOB

The Lesson is a 2023 British thriller film written by Alex MacKeith, directed by Alice Troughton and starring Richard E. Grant, Julie Delpy and Daryl McCormack.

The film is a psychological thriller. In the way that the movie is structured, it is similar to a play: there are only five key characters and almost the entire story takes place in one location.

The story is centred on the interaction between the four main characters: an Oxford student employed as a tutor by a wealthy family living in a mansion in the countryside; the teenage son who will be tutored by the Oxford student; and, finally, the son’s parents, who are a famous British writer and his French wife, an artist. The family employs a near-silent and enigmatic butler, who is the fifth character: the person who sees everything but says nothing.



The film opens in medias res to Liam Sommers, who is being interviewed about his debut novel. The main story begins after Liam is asked what inspired to write the novel, which is about a declining and failing patriarch who tries to reassert control over his family and career.

Liam, a PhD student of English literature at the University of Oxford, has been working for several years on a novel he wants to finish. Through a tuition agency, he is offered an assignment with a wealthy family, whose son, Bertie, needs a tutor to prepare for the university's entrance exam. When he arrives at the family's country estate, Liam is introduced to Bertie and his parents: J.M. Sinclair, a famous writer who has not published a book in some time; and Hélène, who is an artist. Liam is given the use of a small house on the estate, where he can see the personal study where J.M. works.

At first, Liam eventually manages to establish a good rapport with Bertie, but Hélène is cold and distant while J.M. is narcissistic and domineering. Relations become more cordial with J.M. after Liam helps him with his malfunctioning printer. Liam learns that Bertie’s brother, Felix, committed suicide relatively recently, drowning himself in the pond in front of the Sinclairs' villa. The topic is taboo in the household, as Felix’s death has clearly affected deeply all the remaining members of the family.

J.M. is in the process of finishing a novel and offers to pay Liam to proofread the work. In return, Liam asks J.M. to have a look at his own manuscript. In his critique of J.M.’s manuscript, Liam says he found the first two-thirds very compelling, in a style that is quite different from what J.M. usually writes, but finds the ending quite poor and tonally at odds with the rest of the novel. J.M. clearly disagrees with this verdict and, although he avoids showing it, is angered by Liam’s feedback.

When Liam asks J.M. what the writer thinks of his own manuscript, J.M. treats him with undisguised contempt, telling the young man that he cannot possibly have any talent for writing and should focus on a teaching career instead. Humiliated, Liam tears the manuscript to pieces and throws it in the pond.

While J.M. is away from the estate to meet with his publisher and Bertie is off at a party, Liam and Hélène begin an affair. Encouraged by Hélène, he enters the server room, next to J.M.’s study, where the writer keeps a second computer. On that computer, Liam finds the full (and only) electronic version of J.M.'s novel, in the form of a single Microsoft Word document which Liam deletes. However, Liam and Hélène realise that the unfinished novel was actually written by Felix, who killed himself before he could complete it. What J.M. had been doing was write an ending that he tagged onto his elder son’s story, while claiming that he wrote all of it.

When J.M. returns, he soon realises that the electronic copy of his novel has vanished. He turns to Liam, who blames this incident on a virus that would have infected the server. J.M. becomes even more distraught when he looks for the only paper copy of the novel that he had and cannot find it, unaware that Liam threw it into the pond. He angrily suspects Bertie of wrongdoing but cannot prove anything.

Since he knows that Liam has a photographic memory, J.M. asks that he write the entire novel all over again by hand, so that J.M. can present a copy to his publisher. Liam does so, but ends up writing two endings: J.M.’s original ending, which he thought was lousy, and another ending, which is his own. J.M. does not seem to be fully aware of the fact that Liam has written an alternative ending, but his wife reads both and declares Liam’s to be the superior version.

When the manuscript is finished, J.M. and Liam celebrate, becoming drunk. The older man challenges Liam to a swim in the pond. As they approach the pond, Liam confronts J.M. with the idea that Felix wrote the bulk of the novel, understanding that Felix killed himself because his father had cruelly and unfairly panned his writing. Liam further lets J.M. know that he has slept with his wife. J.M. flies into a rage and begins a fight. When they fall into the pond, J.M. tries to drown Liam, but the younger man escapes. Hélène, having heard the commotion, walks over to the pond and coldly looks at her husband before walking away. Having lost her esteem, J.M. drowns himself.

Liam is horrified when Hélène tells him about J.M.'s death, which she will tell first responders was accidental. When Liam demands to be credited for writing the new ending, she threatens to accuse him of murdering the writer if he doesn't drop the claim and leave the estate immediately. Realising that Hélène engineered this whole situation in order to trigger her husband's death, Liam agrees. Back in the present, Bertie is seen in the studio audience during Liam's interview.

source: Wikipedia



Any Good Films

Julie Delpy is coolly aloof, Daryl McCormack continues to impress and Richard E Grant is fascinating as the monstrous egotistical author in a plot that gets darker and darker layer by layer.

The Guardian

The Lesson review – Richard E Grant and Julie Delpy star in atmospheric literary thriller.

Rotten Tomatoes

The Independent

The egos are as vast and thorny as the gardens on the lush estate of a prominent author in “ The Lesson,” an entertaining and erudite chamber piece about a master, a tutor and a family after loss.