Review: My Old School (2022 Sundance Film Festival)

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Title: My Old School
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Director: Jono McLeod
Starring: Alan Cumming, Lulu
Runtime: 1 hr 44 mins

What It Is: A docudrama retelling of the story of Brandon Lee, a High School student in Glasgow Scotland with a big secret.

What We Think: My Old School is both shocking and hilarious as only a film that seemingly caters to nostalgia 90’s MTV teens now evolved into 48-hour mystery watchers could be. It begins with the introduction of teen Brandon Lee, portrayed by a cartoon image reminiscent of Daria, as the voices of his once classmates describe in detail how even on his first day he oddly stood out. Brandon was awkward, and by consensus, much more mature in appearance and demeanor than his age noted. But like all stories of teenage redemption and discovery, an evolution of sorts occurs with the young Lee, as his odd demeanor propels him to popularity. Confessionals of former classmates stream from eye-brow raising first impressions to accolades for someone considered most likely to succeed and move on from their small town mentality. Each recollection feels like a building block towards a twist heavily hinted at and yet still as shocking when revealed. The choice by director Jono McLeod to have actor Alan Cumming mime the words of the real Brandon Lee only adds to the build-up, as he acts out Lee’s self-confidence as one would imagine such deceit would need. As the pieces stack together to form the reveal, and then the town stopping aftermath, each one of Lee’s classmates seemingly gets to fill their own gaps in the story that defined their high school years. The gasps, uncomfortable laughs, and shock all add to the draw that makes My Old School more than a documentary and holds your attention till the very end.

Our Grade: B, Sharing the age of all parties partaking in the confessionals made me wonder if they were as attached to 48-hour mysteries as myself. I can only imagine anyone watching this documentary would need some sort of affinity for mysteries as My Old School does excellent at building up to its twist, utilizing a 90’s nostalgia bridge to weave it all together. From its quirky cartoon reenactments to holding the confessionals in the same classrooms where most of the events occurred, it felt very much like a piping hot cup of tea at a 25th high school reunion. The sordid tale of the mysterious, and ultimately popular student that everyone knew of felt very much like you were sharing in some gossip. Yet the tone of the film refrains from creating a villain, and instead maintains a sense of politeness around a story that still seems odd despite its age. It’s hard not to walk away with questions, yet they all seem to fall in line with the overall thought from Brandon’s former classmate. That, even after retelling the story amongst themselves, it all just seemed so hard to believe, and yet the story of Brandon Lee was very much believed.

Film screened via the Sundance Film Festival by your Melanin Gifted Movie Critic.

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