The First Grader (15)
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Time Out says
Tue Jun 21 2011It’s funny how ‘real life’ sometimes conforms so closely to hackneyed patterns of screenwriting. This is the true story of Maruge (Oliver Litondo), an eightysomething man in rural Kenya who took at face value the ‘free education for all’ message of a newspaper article and demanded a place in a primary school.
British director Justin Chadwick (‘The Other Boleyn Girl’) and South African writer Ann Peacock (‘Country of My Skull’) mainly set this limp drama in and around the schoolroom where firm-but-kind teacher Jane (Naomie Harris) reluctantly accepts Maruge into her fold, despite opposition from the authorities. There are also trips to the capital for conflicts with central bureaucracy and to the past to exorcise Maruge’s colonial-era demons. The film’s repeated journeys of conflict followed by acceptance are simplistic and obviously calculated to be uplifting. Yet for all its faults, the heart of ‘The First Grader’ is in the right place and it just about works as a basic inspirational tale for youngsters. At least they didn’t cast Morgan Freeman in the lead.
Author: Dave Calhoun