Plot – Maverick teacher John Keating uses poetry to embolden his boarding school students to new heights of self-expression – Dead Poets Society.
Director – Peter Weir
Starring – Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke
Released – 1989
For Fans of – Good Will Hunting, The History Boys, The Breakfast Club
When Dead Poets Society came out in 1989, it took the world by storm. Proving not only that Williams had the skill to play serious roles without losing the star quality that he brought to any production. But also that even the most basic of plots can be made iconic with the combination of talented direction, precise writing, and solid acting across the board.
This was a groundbreaking movie in its portrayal of the teacher-student relationship that can form in boarding/college situations. However, the real highlight is how Weir presents issues that arose in shades of grey, not the usual black & white that we see in most coming-of-age movies of the ’80s and ’90s.
This isn’t Dangerous Minds set in the ’50s with white boys. Weir, along with writer Tom Schulman clearly recognised that many of the situations touched upon were incredibly complex and that it would be a stronger script if the resolutions were scarce, or unsatisfactory, adding a sense of realism to a lot that could have developed a sense of the unbelievable if it were solely to focus on John Keating (Williams) inspiring a collection of teenage boys to widen their horizons.
In terms of casting, Dead Poets Society gets every character right. Especially Williams, who is simply tremendous as the inspirational new teacher, injecting his usual energy into the role without going over the top and sticking out like a sore thumb when compared to the rest of the cast who consisted mostly of actors who were better known for their serious dramatic work.
Sure some parts might be a little clichéd these days, but that is only because so many films have since used Dead Poets Society as their inspiration. In the end, this is a movie that I highly recommend to anyone who hasn’t yet had the pleasure (though I find it hard to believe there are many film fans out there that have yet to see this piece of 80s cinematic history).
“O Captain! My Captain!”Walt Whitman (1865)