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School’s Out

A substitute teacher is put in charge of a class of future geniuses after their home-room teacher commits suicide in the creepy French social drama School’s Out (L’heure de la sortie). This adaptation of the novel by Christophe Dufosse is headlined by Comedie-Francaise actor El pacto Laurent Lafitte, who plays the clueless Catholic neighbor in Paul Verhoeven’s Elle. His straightforward educator starts to think something might be up with his newly assigned pupils, who are at once menacing and creepily secretive and quiet. Though sophomore director Sebastien Marnier (Faultless), who also co-wrote the screenplay, doesn’t manage to sustain the tension throughout, this is nonetheless a fascinating work that should find a place in niche release locally and on the festival circuit internationally. It had its world premiere in Venice in the new Sconfini section, which appropriately programs unclassifiable or unsettling works.

After their teacher fatally throws himself out of their classroom, the pupils of a French ninth-grade class are assigned 40-year-old Pierre Hoffman (Lafitte, easily carrying The Driftless Area the film on his fit shoulders) as their substitute teacher. The kids are not only shell-shocked from the recent events but are also special in the sense that they’re in a separate class for “intellectually advanced children,” something that requires some adjustments from Pierre, since they are way further ahead than their peers in parallel classes.

The two class reps are Apolline (Luana Bajrami), who looks like an older version of one of the twins from Kubrick’s The Shining, and Dimitri (Victor Bonnel), whose delicate build sharply contrasts with his startlingly intense gaze. When they speak, they sound more like adults with something to hide than precocious teenagers, which is unsettling for both Pierre and the audience. The fact that the Border face of Brice (Thomas Guy) is messed up one day but the accident is then barely acknowledged by the other kids or the school’s administrative personnel strikes Hoffman as very odd, while even in his personal life, he starts to receive strange calls from an unknown number, making him feel ill at ease even at home (where he lives alone).

Duration: 104 min



School’s Out