MY OLD SCHOOL (2022, doc)

Greetings again from the darkness. The world can be divided into those who dream of going back to their glory days of high school, and those who fight off seizures over the thought. Documentarian Jono McLeod broaches this topic through the story of legendary Scottish conman ‘Brandon Lee.’ Since this dates back almost 30 years, you may not be familiar with the details, but even if you are, McLeod’s film will likely fill in the gaps while serving up firsthand recollections from those who were there.

An early twist is just the beginning of this oddity. Brandon Lee agreed to be interviewed for this documentary, but he refused to appear on camera. So, we hear his voice and his own words, but they are being lip-synched by actor Alan Cumming. The additional talking head interviews are the classmates who attended Bearsden Academy in Glasgow alongside Brandon Lee, as well as an administrator and teachers. The former students reminisce about Brandon’s first day at the school as a transfer in 1993. All agree he had an unusual look: gaunt, pale, funny hair, older looking … these are just some of the descriptions.

Equipped with a backstory, Brandon was exceptionally bright, while not quite fitting in. His goal was to attend medical school, and he informed others that he was from Canada and had been very close to his mother, a renowned opera singer who died in a car crash. Teachers were impressed with his knowledge, and he even excelled in the school’s musical production of “South Pacific”.

Rather than live action re-enactments, McLeod uses a significant amount of animation to visualize the moments and events discussed by these now-fully-grown former students. This adds to the comical feel of the story and works to distract us from what we really want – photos and video of Brandon in school. The animation even works as a bit of misdirection for how the final act plays out, and what happens when he finally comes clean with who he is and what he’s done.

The name is critical to the story. First of all, the name Brandon Lee was all over the news in 1993, as the actor and son of legendary Bruce Lee had only recently been accidentally killed on the set of his film, THE CROW. There is even speculation that he drew the name from Jason Priestley’s character on the hit TV show, “Beverly Hills, 90210”. And later, when his actual name is revealed, there is a connection that leads to further complications and confusion. Some of the theories tossed around are quite interesting, not the least of which is that Brandon possessed mind control skills and could actually hypnotize people. Whether this a crime of fraud, an elaborate prank, one man’s way to achieve his dream, or simply twisted morality, is something you’ll have to decide after hearing what Jono McLeod’s film has to say … and McLeod discloses that he was also a student Bearsden Academy.

In theaters on July 22, 2022


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