“My Old School.” Movies are the best places for outlandish stories, and arguably documentaries are even better. There is no greater thrill than watching a true story unfold right before your eyes, especially when it seems like it couldn’t really happen. That’s the case with My Old School, a new documentary from Jono McLeod.
While some of the greatest documentaries seem to focus on major historical events and public figures, this film is a story that might not get much attention outside of Scotland. This detail makes it no less eye-catching and eye-catching. My Old School takes a unique approach to uncover a truly intricate true story, resulting in a must-see documentary.
My Old School: Movie Review
In 1993, a 16-year-old boy named Brandon Lee caused a stir in Glasgow when he applied to Bearsden Academy, not least because he arrived just months after actor Brandon Lee died on the set of The Crow. Brandon quickly stood out among his classmates due to his peculiar appearance, interesting background, and high intellect.
It would take some time for Brandon’s shocking secret to come out, and when it did, it shook the entire community to its core. Now, decades later, his classmates have reunited to look back on the stunning event that shaped their school years and offer their own take on the story of one Brandon Lee.
As My Old School shows right from the start, Brandon chose not to be shown on camera. McLeod carefully handles this by having beloved Scottish actor Alan Cumming stand in for Brandon during the head talk and lip-syncing along with his responses.
The result works much better than it would on paper, with Cumming doing an excellent job of matching Brandon’s tones and vocals with his own expressions. This also serves to make Brandon even more elusive to the audience; although everyone can hear him, his true form remains a mystery except for some stock footage towards the end. Even this revelation does nothing to diminish the mystery that is the central character of My Old School.
To give further details of Brandon’s story would be to take away the thrill of watching it unfold through the eyes of those who were with him at Bearsden. The concept of former classmates reuniting to look back on their school days can resonate with everyone, and My Old School cleverly taps into the nostalgia by allowing each of the interviewees to really laugh and talk.
Their sides aren’t always focused on Brandon, so they help enhance the overall story. It’s easy for the viewer to feel like they too visited Bearsden in the 1990s. McLeod also injects another bit of creativity, similar to last year’s hit Flee, using animation to bring back memories of the past, using a style that will be quite familiar to those who grew up during the decade. Overall, My Old School feels authentic and personal, giving it an irresistible warmth.
Even when the truth comes out, Brandon Lee’s whole story hides more twists than one might expect. My old school doesn’t leave anyone with easy answers. It may seem easy to pass judgment on Brandon after learning his secret, but McLeod has gathered so many different points of view and offered so much insight into Brandon’s life that the audience will probably have a hard time deciding how they feel about him.
The way in which McLeod allows the story to unravel must also be acknowledged. What at first appears to be a straightforward retelling takes on new light as more interviewees speak up and as certain quotes and moments come back to reframe what was said before. Sentences that seemed innocuous at first sound much different when woven back into the narrative an hour later.
Even for those who may not normally seek out documentaries, My Old School is a film not to be missed. It’s an absurd and mind-blowing story, but it also has such heart and authenticity that it feels deeply relatable. Instead of taking a by-the-book approach, McLeod matches Brandon’s story and embraces the uniqueness by bringing real creative flourishes to the film. This is a story that most struck a chord with those living in Glasgow at the time, but now it’s guaranteed to grip anyone who settles down and watches My Old School grow its impressive network.
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