After their teacher jumps out of a window during a lesson, a technically gifted class is given a new substitute teacher, Pierre Hoffman (Laurent Lafitte). As soon as Hoffman takes his first class, we know something is off about a handful of the kids. They’re arrogant and snarky but this doesn’t come across as annoying. Instead, it’s all rather unsettling. Is their behaviour down to what they witnessed, or something else?
The film obviously hold what’s happening close to its chest. but instead of being rewarded for our patience in the finale, we get answers sooner than expected. These aren’t the answers we could’ve logically guessed and giving us more time to process the truth is a much bolder move than saving it for shock value. It also serves the narrative much more, meaning we can process character’s choices with more logic and stay connected to the unfolding story instead of loosing patience.
There is a lot of striking imagery throughout. The scorching sun that stares at us menacingly at the start is just as off putting as some of the kids. Instead of relying on beautiful shots, we also see Hoffman spying on the kids through his eyes by putting us into his shoes, making us feels rather stalkerish. Shaky shots looking through trees could’ve taken away the great effect the cinematography was having, but because of the constant feeling of uncertainty, it only increases the film’s beauty.
The two class prefects Apolline (Luàna Bajrami) and Dimitri (Victor Bonnel) standout in making Hoffman and the audience on the edge every time they’re on screen. Whether they’re staring into what feels like our souls, or calmly responding to loud, aggressive questioning, it’s two turns that gives us an unexpected amount of anxiety without ever knowing why.
If you like your films shrouded in mystery with an ever looming sense of dread, this’ll be right up your alley. An unravelling puzzle that cleverly subverts expectations and presents you with answers that make you really stop and think. We’re also exposes to some brutal moments, but School’s Out never exploits itself into becomes anything other than what it wants to be.