Adventures in Public School (Kyle Rideout, 2017) Canada

Adventures in Public School, reviewed by Lynn Hartell

REPORT CARD:  A Creative Film Review

School Term:  Santa Barbara Film Festival, 2018

Homeroom: Metro Theater

The sweet but uncomfortably close relationship between homeschooled Liam and his mom Claire is put to the test when he intentionally fails his high school equivalency exam to be near his one-legged crush Anastasia.

Cast and Characters:  A-  The protagonist, Liam Heap, is well played by Daniel Doheny in his first feature. He only needs to pass a final exam to graduate from home school so he can attend Cambridge to study astronomy.  After successfully failing his exam, Liam attends public school for the first time in his life, taking the schedule and identity of an absent classmate, Maria Sanchez (Eva Day). Doheny adeptly captures the body language of an geeky teen without overdoing it.

Judy Greer (The Wedding Planner, Adaptation, 13 Going on 30) plays Liam’s sincere but overprotective mom Claire. She is horrified that he wants to go to public school and labels Liam’s need for normal adolescent experiences as rebellious.  Afraid to let him go, Claire earnestly creates a “rebellion” project so she can join him as he learns to swear, take drugs and learn about the opposite sex.

Siobahn Williams plays Liam’s crush Anastasia, who confidently and spiritedly takes her disability in stride.

Some of the other supporting characters, including the principal, Mr. Kelly (Andrew McNee)  and guidance counselor (Russell Peters) were less convincing in their roles and the Australian accent of the bully BDC (Andrew Herr) seemed inauthentic and incongruous.

Dialogue:  A.  Co-written by Kyle Rideout and Josh Epstein, the dialogue between Liam and Claire is as hilarious as their relationship develops from best friends through the necessary separation of young adulthood. The humor is smart and there are laugh-out-loud double entendres sprinkled throughout the film.

Visuals: A- . At times it feels like you are right there with Liam and his clingy mom in a very tight space. The film angles and composition amplify the many uncomfortable situations that Liam finds himself in.  Visuals of supernova explosions are consistent with the themes of coming of age and first love, as well as with Liam’s love of physics. There were some quirky special effects which contributed to the fast-paced fun tone of the film.

Music: B. The pop soundtrack (Matthew Rogers) was lively and consistent with the high school themes but felt slightly dated.

Genre and Form: A.  This teen coming of age, romantic comedy stays light and fun without resorting to typical cliche humor.

Overall Grade:  A.  The director Kyle Rideout hits the nail on the head in this delightful coming-of-age comedy. His take on the mother-son relationship is quirky, fun and ultimately endearing. The film is worth seeing!



About this entry