Alan Bennett’s Tony-winning play, with its cast brought more or less intact to the screen, centers on a British grammar school in hardscrabble Sheffield whose headmaster pulls out all the stops to ensure that his eight most promising students get into Oxford or Cambridge – more as a feather in the school’s cap than out of genuine support for the students.
A ringer is brought in to do test prep, though the school’s dedicated and eccentric teachers (led by Richard Griffiths) seem perfectly capable of inspiring young minds to develop a love of knowledge. (Think of the school as Hogwarts, with fewer evil wizards and monsters and more sexual tension.) The clash between teaching to the test and learning for its own sake is well-dramatized and surprisingly funny. Either way, it suggests that the next generation of students is learning a lot more than anyone gives them credit for.
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