Directed by Sean Nichols Lynch Starring Taylor Lambert, Ben Bellamy, Austin Scott and Carly Schroeder Film Review by Owen Herman
Sean Nichols Lynch’s debut feature Prep School is a drama that looks at the lives of four close friends in their final weeks at a prestigious prep school. As members of the school’s rugby team, these friends share a close bond until one of them discovers that his girlfriend is cheating on him, causing rivalries and revenge plots to come forth as each friend deals with it in his own way.
The film opens with an impressively convincing school rugby match, before entering the macho, beer drenched and f-word filled world of the dressing room. Lynch presents the central characters with no sugar-coating; although only young boys, they are the cocky, misogynistic ‘rugby player’ types that are the norm at schools and universities around the world. When “the final match” was mentioned, I was worried the audience would be asked to root for this group in a story of sports triumph. However, this is only a set-up, and soon the film focuses, with some depth, on these flawed characters as the drama unfolds. Tom (Taylor Lambert) gets the bulk of this development, with a phone call to his Mum being the highlight. I would have liked to have seen some further intimate character moments like this phone call, particularly with Caleb (Ben Bellamy) and Tony (scene stealing Austin Scott), but overall the characters were well developed and engaging, allowing you to look beyond their labels as rugby players.
The script is strong overall, but it has its weaker moments. “I’ve been following guidelines my whole life, it hasn’t gotten me anywhere” says the guy who had been accepted into Berkeley and has a place on a top internship. I feel it could have benefited from one more draft to get it just right. The same goes for the editing. As a whole it is fine, but there are a couple of moments where the camera cuts with the dialogue (meaning the camera looks at whoever is talking at that point) as opposed to with the eyes (when the camera tends to focus on the reactions of actors, even if they’re not talking). This results in something that feels a bit unnatural and almost jarring as you snap back and forth between each character. The slightly weaker parts of the script and editing come together in a scene where Tom meets the roommate of his friend Greg (Stephen Brookins). This moment feels a bit amateurish compared to the rest of the film, which is a shame. There are no huge issues, but it could just do with a bit of a tidy up here and there.
I was thoroughly engaged throughout, there were plot twists that were completely unexpected and the storylines were wrapped up in clever ways. It is a shame to see the slight problems mar the overall experience, but with a few tweaks these could be fixed. Rather like a teacher, I feel ‘promising’ is the word I should use. Prep School is a very promising debut feature from Lynch.