Private Lessons (2008)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BB

Original title:  Eleve Libre

Alternate title:  Free Student

Belgium/France2008.  Versus Production, MACT Productions, Inver Invest, Radio Télévision Belge Francophone, Ryva, Eurimages, Canal+, CinéCinéma, Haut et Court, Le Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Fédéral de Belgique, Pôle Image de Liège.  Screenplay by Joachim Lafosse, .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Jonas is a tennis star who has just failed a year of high school yet again, and will not be allowed to repeat it for a third time. Devastated at the prospect of having to go to technical school, he decides to take the “jury exam” (my familiarity with the Belgian educational system is not strong) and catch up, but will need to do some serious studying in order to pass. Thankfully, his mother has abandoned him with three of her friends, all of whom have a parental feeling for the young boy, one of whom decides to be his tutor. The three role models are as concerned about Jonas’s personal life as they are his scholastic one, asking him about his initial sexual encounters with his new girlfriend and offering all sorts of advice to help him enter this new stage of adulthood with as much ease as possible; that is, until they start to offer practical assistance and he basically becomes a sex toy for these manipulative adults. Joachim Lafosse is looking to explore the human inability to avoid taking advantage of power, as these grown-ups probably mean to do everything above-board but eventually can’t help but fold this comparatively innocent young man into their schemes. The director doesn’t really succeed, however, and what it really comes across as is dirty Eurotrash with extended dinner scenes that try to justify it as intellectual stimulation. The performances are strong but the pace is sluggish and, while the characters are intentionally unlikable, none of them are particularly compelling.

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