In the 1930's, Max Brown is an urban young man from an Eastern province, fresh from college, whose only job offer is in a one-room school house in the Canadian prairie. At first he's ...
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In the 1930's, Max Brown is an urban young man from an Eastern province, fresh from college, whose only job offer is in a one-room school house in the Canadian prairie. At first he's distant, superior, lonely, and bewildered; his students are rebellious. Over the course of the year, he is drawn to Alice Field, the wife of a farmer, in a love that can lead nowhere. But, he and his students connect, a connection that matters and lasts. Written by
I grew up in rural Canada, in a small middle-class household that was a little bit on the old-fashioned side. Dramas like these were part of the experience when all you had was access to CBC television and a small selection of video tapes. Although I never caught this one in particular as a child, it would have been perfectly welcome.
It's hard to picture why exactly a film like "Why Shoot the Teacher?" has been so well-forgotten over the years. Something in the lack of initial distribution no doubt, which seems to be the lot of nearly all Canadian films of this era. It's based on a book by Max Braithwaite, and it feels very much like a true story, though there's a chance I suppose that it isn't. Silvio Narizzano directs it to life with a looseness and a real live humanity.
The acting is undoubtedly what gives this film its energy, and Bud Cort is better than I've ever seen him. In a similar sense as Charles Martin Smith's character in "Never Cry Wolf" he portrays a truly charming combination of naiveté and forced confidence. It's that painfully forced bravery that saves him in the end. This film could serve as a lesson in how much difference overcoming even the smallest percentage of personal fears can make in your life.
There is a lightness to "Why Shoot the Teacher?", a faithful depiction with just enough weight to keep it all from blowing away. I felt it moving through me, lifting my head and softening my heart. It's something to be thankful for, this gentle little thing.
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