With Tom Schulman's script scrutinising educational conformity, the casting of Robin Williams as English teacher John Keating is inspired. Keating's eccentric teaching methods, exhorting his students with cries of 'Carpe Diem', promote spontaneity and idealism. But in the prestigious Welton Academy circa 1959, these male offspring are put on the same career path as their fathers, and face stern opposition from the educational establishment when they choose to indulge their imaginations. Keating's gospel breeds hope for some, frustration and despair for others. To a large degree, Schulman avoids cliché by focusing almost exclusively on entrenched paternal prejudice against artistic pursuits. Weir infuses the film with his customary mysticism, but more importantly, draws sensitive performances from his largely inexperienced cast (Leonard is particularly impressive). Williams does wonders with a role that tends to be reduced to one of catalyst.
Cast and crew
Robert Sean Leonard