My Old School is a peculiar documentary that intrigues audiences with an unconventional narrative gimmick, and further attracts viewers with its strange, entertaining, and deliberately confusing yarn. The movie is, simply, unforgettable.
Scottish classmates are reunited to discuss a former peer in Jono McLeod’s film (McLeod also shares an academic past with his subject). Before their interviews though, movie goers learn that the film’s subject, “Brandon Lee”, will not appear on-camera. Instead, a recorded interview will be lip synched and performed by Tony award winner Alan Cumming, who was supposed to portray a different Brandon Lee in a cancelled biopic about the actor made famous by 1994’s The Crow – are you still following me? Though Cumming’s contribution sounds convoluted, it helps transition My Old School from a movie about interpreting nostalgia to a stranger-than-fiction account about manipulating identity. His performance also reminds us of how nuanced Cumming can be with his acting.
Similar to my reaction to 2018’s Three Identical Strangers, it would be a disservice to elaborate on how the teachers and students of a high-end secondary school were fooled by “Brandon”; it’s best to have the film unfold for you. As an added bonus, interviewees either have to be reminded of the shenanigans they endured or have the pieces connected for them by other former students. This gives movie goers extra assurance that they’re wrapped up in a sensational case that includes mistrust and delusion.
My Old School alternates between contemporary live action footage and stylistic animated flashbacks really well, allowing McLeod to expand on memories and embellish wild details when needed (much like how Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood did). The film earns more fascinating layers through the provided news footage, showing movie goers how “Brandon” affected not only his peers, not only his family, but all of Scotland. And, who can forget the home video of “Brandon” in the school’s production of South Pacific? It’s absurd, jaw-dropping, and actually chilling.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie