In a small, Bulgarian classroom a student has had money stolen from her. Their teacher, Nadya, determined to identify and punish the thief, gives the culprit numerous opportunities to own up to their crime or to at least return the money. Taking this opportunity to preach a moral message, the teacher is initially defiant in finding and punishing the guilty party. Meanwhile, her personal life is desperately stressful. With a young child and a strained marriage, Nadya suddenly finds herself in financial distress and her livelihood instantly comes under threat. Following the devastating consequences of her husband’s secret debt, she must use her determination to keep them afloat – turning to loan sharks in the midst of a devastating but thrilling domino effect which brings her tumbling down. The Lesson is a fascinating study of dignity in the face of devastation, questioning whether or not the same moral rules can apply in the most desperate of situations. The Lesson comes from directors Kristina Grozeva and Peter Valchnov and features a bold and gripping performance by Margita Gosheva. This is a deeply interesting thriller which grows more thrilling as each minute passes. Brilliantly balancing the classroom scenes with the unravelling life of the teacher, The Lesson is a last minute delight at the close of 2015.
The Lesson is a one woman show. Margita Gosheva bubbles with fury and exasperation – prioritising her character’s composure over her inner turmoil. Her character is respectable and maintains her struggle, internally. There is panic and anger bubbling below the surface and little support at home to help her relieve the strain. It’s a performance with as much dignity as the character. Gosheva’s eyes carry great and subtle fear and concern. A stern and no nonsense teacher, Nadya applies the same attitude to her personal life. We rarely see Nadya snap – making the moments when she does even more intense. In the film’s most compelling sequence, we watch Nadya race against the clock to complete a task which, if not completed, will have disastrous effects. Throughout the entire scenario she remains focused and composed – we sympathise with the horror and the pressure of the events that are unfolding and can’t help but share in her anguish. The Lesson is about financial tragedy – made even more unsettling because of just how slowly the water around the protagonist rises. The Lesson tackles crisis of not only the financial but of the emotional. Where most would turn to family or loved ones for support, Nadya visits her father, around whom there is too much hurt, envy and betrayal for her to handle. With its simplicity and realism, The Lesson is one of the most suspenseful and captivating films currently playing in UK cinemas. If you are lucky enough to live near a well-programmed cinema or art house, don’t miss this humble but gripping thriller.
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