Hector (Richard Griffiths)
Something we Yanks never learned from Goodbye Mr. Chips or the Harry Potter tales: in English all-boys schools, no one is perturbed by the occasional occurrence of same-sex grappling. In America, a teacher like Hector, who gives the boys the occasional fondle when giving them rides home on his motorbike, would be fired and placed on a sex-offender list for life, but here, he’s just an eccentric who’s forgiven his peculiar ways because he lights up a classroom with his passionate excitement for learning.
Sure, sexual intrigue between faculty and students is still a sticky issue here, as it is for the girls in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, but only as an exercise in power gamesmanship, not as a crime that will psychologically scar the boys for life. Every student here is too busy thinking of his future at Oxford or Cambridge, to be followed by a life of leadership, to worry too much about shenanigans outside the classroom, or even to worry about whether all the weight their school places on studying for entrance exams is actually stunting their intellectual growth.
The old-school Hector, for his part, prefers that learning be done for its own sake, not just to pass a test, and for this reason, the movie has the same soft spot for him that Goodbye Mr. Chips does for its hero, no matter what happens on the motorbike.
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