By “Cinema” Dave
It has been 21 years since I produced A Tribute to the Men and Women of the World War II Generation with 133 6th graders at Loggers’ Run Community Middle School. The presentation featured big band numbers, a chorus inspired by the Andrew Sisters and testimonials that induced a few tears from some very hardened middle-aged teachers and 12-year-olds. I’m proud of this program and the fact that some of my former students have remained in touch with me via Facebook. A French film with English subtitles, Once in a Lifetime took me back to my experiences from two decades ago.
Based on a true story and filmed at the actual high school where the movie was originally filmed, Once in a Lifetime introduces us to Anne Gueguen (Ariane Ascaride), a history teacher. Talking to her diverse student body, Ms. Gueguen informs her jaded students that she is entering them into a contest. The subject is the Holocaust and students balk about learning “ancient history.”
Co-written by Ahmed Dramé (who portrays one of the students), the French high school looks and sounds like an American classroom. There is multiple rivalry between the diverse cultures that create tension. Gueguen allows her students their moments to speak, but she carefully crafts their arguments into understanding. Once the boundaries of mutual respect are established, Gueguen brings in a guest speaker, Léon Zyguel, a Holocaust survivor.
In an age when educational socialization is emphasizing pressing the buttons on the latest technology (that may be obsolete in five years), Once in a Lifetime is a reminder of the importance of classroom debate and discussion. This is a riveting motion picture for nearly two hours.
Last week, I mentioned Haley Bennett’s earthy performance in The Magnificent Seven. Proving to be a chameleon, the actress portrays an opposite role as Megan in The Girl on the Train, based on the best-selling novel by Paula Hawkins.
Emily Blunt portrays Rachel as the girl in The Girl on the Train. She is an alcoholic who suffers from blackouts. As she commutes to the city via railroad, she spies a suburban couple living Rachel’s ideal life. With a pang of jealousy, Rachel finds relief in drinking vodka from her water bottle.
The Girl on the Train is an interesting thriller until it reaches its climax, which stumbles into unintentional humor. However, this film will be remembered for Blunt’s vulnerable performance, which has received some Oscar buzz.