Dead Poets Society ★★★

This film was nominated for Best Picture in 1989. It's a testament to how strong emotionally-charged counter-conformity and themes of individualism can overpower other elements of a film, namely the actual narrative of that film.

Strip away the emotionally heavy set pieces and you're left with a plot that seems inexplicably motivated and a climax that satisfies only on a superficial level. For all his hard work and tutelage, Williams’ Keating is ultimately failed by his cowardly pupils, all of whom attempt to make up for it in a rather cloying manner that screams of too-little-too-late. It's a powerful moment, of course, but in a way that struck me as completely unfulfilling.

It’s a pleasure to see a young Ethan Hawke begin to find his footing as an actor, and Williams is an undeniably strong presence. The film dates itself, and is coated in that thick sheen of high-test pre-90s Hollywood – a score integrating classical instruments with obvious synth organs and sharp edits to end scenes rather without flourish. It’s a Peter Weir film, which means it’s got his trademark balance of big-budget look and feel with well-shot camerawork and a definite sense of control and craftsmanship.

I enjoyed seeing this film almost a decade and a half after the last time I watched it, but it simply didn't hold up for me. I need more from characters and narrative than I once did, or perhaps I simply see through the superficiality of emotion far more than a teenage version of myself ever could.

Report this review