The trailer opens with Richard E. Grant growling that “great writers … steal” (Aaron Sorkin stole it first). There are dark slashes of cello in the nondiagetic that let us know The Lesson will be a dark film about a novelist. Do writers invent characters, or do they kill them and assemble their bones into bestselling prose? That’s the question will drive the film, directed by Alice Troughton and debuting in U.S. cinemas on July 7th.
Grant, in full Smarmy British Academic mode, plays a famous novelist called J.M. Sinclair (I personally get V.S. Naipaul vibes) whose son Bertie (Stephen McMillan) receives a new tutor, Liam (Daryl McCormack) at their vast country mansion. The old tutor went away, we learn from worn-looking mum-and-wife Hélène (Julie Delpy), who warns Liam to avoid her husband and not to focus on anything but his work with Bertie. The undertones suggest to me that Sinclair’s incredible novels were … not his work. And that Liam’s contributions to his new novel will be the end of Liam. (Barthe did try to warn us! Only the text survives.)
For anyone who gets a thrill from having workshop-speak adapted for the big screen, this should be a real thrill. There are dinners with long candlesticks, dark bookshelves, and, of course, a cursed-looking pond. Will Sinclair feed Liam into his Scrivener app? Maybe!
“You’re changing my work!” says Liam. “I am the writer!” shouts Sinclair. Ooh!
[h/t First Showing]