This savage, confrontational murder story was temporarily banned in its native South Africa, ostensibly for depicting sex between a teacher and his underage pupil. At times it’s troubling: the camera has a tendency to linger on youthful, naked flesh. But ‘Of Good Report’ is problematic for far more direct and inescapable reasons: despite some intense sequences the film just doesn’t hang together, and it’s about as subtle as a cricket bat in the face.
Mothusi Magano plays it straight and silent – completely silent – as substitute teacher Parker Sithole, whose new position at a remote township school is placed in jeopardy when he falls for doe-eyed pupil Nolitha (Petronella Tshuma). Their relationship progresses happily – despite the fact that Parker never speaks – until the discovery that Nolitha is pregnant, at which point all hell breaks loose.
As a director, first-timer Jahmil XT Qubeka shows real promise: ‘Of Good Report’ is harsh and jarring, filled with disorienting noise and sudden moments of harsh beauty and creeping dread. But as a storyteller, Qubeka is far less assured: if the name of the heroine isn’t ‘geddit?’ enough, we’re also treated to a lingering shot of Nabokov’s novel, apropos of nothing. The plot is strictly by the numbers, and the characterisation is close to nonexistent, despite a few gruesome flashbacks. All in all, this is an ugly, nihilistic film, striking on the surface but empty underneath.