(director/writer: Alice Troughton; screenwriter: Alex MacKeith; cinematographer: Anna Patarakina; editor: Paulo Pandolpho; music: Isobel Waller-Bridge; cast: Stephen McMillan (Bertie), Crispin Letts (Ellis, butler), Julie Delpy (Hélène Sinclair), Daryl McCormack (Liam) Richard E. Grant (JM Sinclair); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Camille Gatin/Cassandra Sigsgaard/Judy Tossell/Fabien Westerhoff; Bleecker Street; 2023-UK/Germany)

“The acting by the lead characters is quite good, even if the material isn’t.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The underwhelming debut feature of Brit TV director Alice Troughton is a character-driven thriller revolving around the hazards of artistic fame.
Troughton co-writes it with Alex MacKeith.

During the summer, the ridiculed by his cruel father, the spoiled teenager Bertie (Stephen McMillan), is tutored to pass the entrance exams at Oxford to major in English Lit by the aspiring, creepy and ambitious writer and recent Oxford grad Liam Somers (Daryl McCormack). Liam moves into the writer’s country estate house and worms his way into the confidence of the beleaguered family.

Bertie’s dad is the famous and imperious British author J.M. Sinclair (Richard E. Grant), who is locked into an unhappy marriage with his bitter art dealer stoical wife
Hélène (Julie Delpy). They’re also dealing with the suicide of their older son.

The toxic writer and the rueful manipulative wife share some dark secrets, and struggle to tolerate each other in their failing marriage.
The film is a slow-burn over the couple’s
ongoing power plays. It results in many twists, betrayals, bouts of clunky dialogue and a dull story with little substance.

Though the acting by the lead characters is quite good, even if the material isn’t.

It played at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The Lesson

REVIEWED ON 7/14/2023  GRADE: B-