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Dead Poets Society (1989) #ThrowbackThursday


Directed by Peter Weir

Starring Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard & Ethan Hawke

Review by Chris Olson


"Oh Captain, My Captain" Remember that one, truly inspirational teacher at school? No, me neither, but if I had had one, he would probably have resembled Robin Williams’ John Keating from Dead Poets Society. Set during the 1950s, in an all-boys private school, Keating is a controversial and inspirational teacher, who not only manages to get his stuffy-prep students interested in poetry, but also inspires them in other aspects of their lives. Keating urges his pupils to seize the day, finding the beauty in the world and to dream - a mission statement which bangs head on with the school’s curriculum, not to mention the uptight parents. By using unorthodox teaching methods, Keating is able to show the boys life outside their insular, privileged existence, teaching them to become individuals and free-thinkers. Acting almost as a precursor to the decade which would follow, the boys soon find their lifestyle at loggerheads with the “man”.

A spirited and charming film, Dead Poets Society has a nostalgic enjoyment factor dripping from its textbooks. The filming is warm and cosy, the music is rousing/emotive, and Williams’ performance is riveting (although, his similar, but better, performance in Good Will Hunting should be lauded higher). The film is slightly let down by uneven performances amongst the boys. Ethan Hawke delivers a somewhat intriguing portrayal of the shy new boy, but for the most part, this group resembles a bunch of rich kids with little in the way of likeability.

Overall though, the film delivers a heart-warming message about the importance of identity, as well as making prudent comments about education and childhood - it may just seem a little out of place with the “Attack The Block” generation.

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