A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that kids will be see fist fights in class and students behaving rudely towards their teacher, although their misbehavior is mild by contemporary film standards. The film addresses issues of race and class and offers a window into London in the mid-1960s.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In 1966 London, Mark Thackeray (Sydney Poitier) has taken on a teaching position in a rough school where teachers are jaded and afraid. Thackeray initially makes no headway with his rude students, and searches for a job as an engineer. But he decides to keep trying, enforcing a strict behavior code accompanied by frank conversations about "life, sex, rebellion, and marriage." Proper conduct is soon the fashion and the students call Thackeray "Sir." A boy refuses to heed Sir's lessons and they end up facing off in a gym class boxing session. The students learn a lesson in overcoming racism when they deliver flowers to the funeral of a black child. Through all the challenges, Sir stays above the fray and leads by example.
Is it any good?
Poitier is reason enough to watch this film, and his charisma makes the changes he brings to the students' world seem entirely plausible. The production design is marvelous and, along with the fine cinematography, captures the desolate nature of rundown East End London. The music is a hoot, with song choices that surprise you like charming relics from another era.
Watching the movie requires a bit of effort and young viewers may find their attention drifting. Making out the British accents is sometimes difficult. But in a world of spoon-fed plots and predictable three-act structures, the film's non-traditional structure and elements set it apart from more standard fare.
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