Film Review: “The Lesson” — The Tutor, the Writer, His Wife, and Her Son

Film Review: “The Lesson” — The Tutor, the Writer, His Wife, and Her Son

By Peg Aloi The Lesson is well-crafted, infused with nervy suspense and an almost Gothic sense of unease. The Lesson , directed by Alice Troughton. Screening AMC Boston Common 19 and Kendall Square Cinema. Julie Delpy and Daryl McCormack in The Lesson. Photo: Anna Patarakina Films famous writers tend to imbue their subject with a sense of mystery, often romanticizing their flaws. In The Lesson , directed by Alice Troughton from a screenplay by Alex MacKeith (feature debuts for both), a celebrated novelist, known for his ego as much as for his talent, makes a comeback after a family tragedy seems to have put his writing career on hold. The inimitable Richard E. Grant ( Can You Ever Forgive Me? ) plays J. M. Sinclair, who lives in a grand English country home with his wife Hélène (Julie Delpy, of the Before Sunset trilogy, and Wiener Dog ) and his son Bertie ( Boiling Point 's Stephen McMillan). The film's short prologue features a public event where a young is being interviewed about the source material for his debut novel. The writer Liam Somers (Daryl McCormack of Good Luck to You, Leo Grande ) flashes a cryptic smile at the interviewer ‘s question, and the film immediately segues into a long flashback of events some years earlier. Liam, a struggling writer in London, works for a temp agency and is thrilled to be given a new job working as a tutor for the teenage son of his idol and subject of his dissertation, J. M. Sinclair. When Liam arrives at the sprawling estate, he's greeted by Ellis (Crispin Letts), an efficient servant and handler who shows him his quarters and introduces him to Bertie, whose initial response to his new tutor is sullen silence. The house is full of modern art, curated by Hélène, whose impressive career seems dimmed by her husband's fame. When Sinclair at last deigns to meet Liam face to face, he is both brusque and ingratiating (Grant masterfully manages the many shades of this character). Of course, someone of Sinclair's prominence knows […]

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