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Jack Read, a working-class boy, wins a scholarship to a public school as part of a post-World War Two experiment in bringing boys of different social classes together. He meets much snobbery along the way as he strives to earn acceptance from his fellow students and some of the teaching staff. Written by
Yes, we're in that Britain of the distant past, but one on the cusp of a social revolution as public schools, once the enclave of plummy-voiced toffs, open their doors (if just a crack) to working class boys.
This film is so old-fashioned it looks, at times like one of those parodies Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse used to excel in. Even when men are arguing they do so in a terribly civilised manner, with their conversation peppered with such phrases as 'now look here' and 'steady on old chap.' It's difficult to imagine Britain could really have been a place like the one described in this film, but I suppose it must have been so.
The plot tells of young Jack Read (Richard Attenborough deftly playing a 13-year-old at the age of 23), a gifted working class boy who receives a place at Saintbury public school as part of a vague experiment. Naturally, Read stands out like a sore thumb and is bullied by his school chums, and it is only thanks to the support of forward-thinking new teacher Robert Flemyng that Read gathers the fortitude to carry on.
Of course, Saintbury is a metaphor of post-war Britain and the resistance of the old order to inexorable change, and the consequence of all Read's ordeals are fairly predictable. Lloyd Hartley (a rather good Cecil Trouncer), the traditionally-minded school master who has an inherent dislike of the working class, has a change of mind that is quite touching and almost Mr Chips-like in its sentimentality - even if it is a little unlikely.
The Guinea Pig looks like a relic from a bygone age today, and it's difficult to see who would be interested in such a film other than film buffs and historians. For all its' predictability, it's a pleasant enough little film that touches upon many sub-plots without actually exploring them in any depth.
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