TL;DR – Mistaken identity, reflections on the past, and the scourge of time, all of these and more in a school reunion that goes very wrong.
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene
School reunions are a fraught time, especially if school was not a fun time for you. It can be crash into past emotions, get a blunt showing of the passing of time, and revisit a time when you were at your most awkward. Well, this means that if you set your film around this event you have a set of emotions that everyone can understand but that universality can work against you if you get it wrong.
So to set the scene, growing up Johnathan (Ludovik) and Pierre-Yves (Jérôme Niel) did not have the best of times at Diderot Middle School being constantly bulled by the dragon gang. Well, in the preceding years the boys have gotten out of the town and all the way to Paris where they have just found ten-years funding for their algorithm. In their moment of triumph, they run into an old acquaintance from school who casually mentions that they’ll be talking more on the weekend. Confused they discover that everyone in the school had been invited to the reunion but them. Well there is only one thing to do in that situation, rock up as if you were invited, the first of many mistakes they make.
Being old enough to have been to one of my high school reunions I can say that this film nails that feeling you get when you walk into a room and see a bunch of people for the first time in ten years. There are the highs and lows, the fond remembrances and the awkward encounters with people who made your life a living hell at times. That feeling of possibility but also dread is such a palpable one and it was good that they nailed it in the film.
The next thing the film nails is those relationships that form during school that define and shape us for better or worse. There is the bond between Johnathan and Pierre-Yves where on the surface they both support each other, covering for each other’s flaws, but under the surface there is still that tension that they are being pulled in different directions. Both the actors work really well together and they have the ebb and flow of a long term friendship that is difficult to pull off on film at times. There are also those relationships that have been absent for ten years and almost immediately people slip back into the past. We see this in the chess team and the dragons, as are bodies fall back into those familiar patterns.
main hook that this film uses is the fact that after ten years people look very
different and that can be a source of confusion. For this film it means that Johnathan
is confused for the other Johnathan in the school that has not shown up. This gives
him the ability to fall into a world he only dreamed about before and it lets
him make out with his old crush. But it should also come as no surprise that
things soon come flying off the rails. I did like that people suddenly realised
what they can do with power and how hollow it is to just replicate what
happened to them. There is a twist in all this that I think you would see
coming and it is handled much better than I thought they would, though that
might not have been the case if the film went on for any longer than it did.
In the end, do we recommend Back to School? Yes, I think we do. It is charming at times, funny as well, but also underneath there is a heart to it all. It does employ some humour more on the crass side of things that might be off-putting for some people, but for me it never got too much. It was a lot of fun, it didn’t outstay its welcome, and has a montage of little kids attacking adults because they can’t fight back, and that is a recommendation all in itself.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow
Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV,
he’ll be talking about International Relations,
or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Back to School
Directed by – Rémy Four & Julien War
Written by – Rémy Four & Julien War
Music by – Sinclair
Production/Distribution Companies – 24 25 Films, Vilain Poney Productions & Netflix
Starring – Ludovik, Jérôme Niel, Nicolas Berno, Johann Dionnet, Caroline Anglade, Joséphine Draï, Pauline Deshons, Romain Lancry, Marc Riso, Nicolas Lumbreras, Claire Tran, Pitcho Womba Konga, Ingrid Heiderscheridt,, Laetitia Chambon, Jean-Luc Couchard, Lena Lapres, Liliane Tombele, Yoann Parize, Walid Ouberri, Santigi Kamara, Sam Schools & Lily Remy.
Rating – Around an Australia: MA15+;