Posts Tagged ‘Sharlene Whyte’

Kingsley Smith (Kenya Sandy) is a 12-year-old boy who dreams of being an astronaut one day, but he can’t read, so he acts out, and gets into trouble with the teachers. This behavior culminates in a meeting between Headmaster Evans (Adrien Rollins) and Kingsley’s mom, Agnes. (Sharlene Whyte) Headmaster Evans recommends a special school for Kingsley, and Agnes reluctantly agrees.

There is nothing special about the school that Kingsley attends, the kids are allowed to run around aimlessly, and far from succeeding, Kingsley continues to flounder in school. One day, when things seem hopeless, Kingsley is visited in school by a psychologist named Hazel, (Naomi Ackie) who sees how deplorable his school conditions are. Shortly thereafter, Agnes is visited by former politician, Lydia Thomas (Josette Simon) who tells Agnes about the inherent bigotry of the British educational system, the soft bigotry of low expectations, and implores Agnes to enroll Kingsley in their one day a week school. Agnes’ husband Edmond (Daniel Francis) thinks Kingsley should learn a trade. What does Agnes do?

Even though Education is a fictional story, educational disparities are an ugly reality for many, not only in the UK, but in the US as well. It’s easy for school administrators to label kids special needs kids, and leave them to languish in special education classes, or schools. Unfortunately, many of those labeled as needing special education are minorities, and so they get trapped in a cycle of bad educational choices, low-paying jobs, leading to generational poverty. Before any of that takes hold one or both parents have to act, they have to decide if their child has a true learning disability, or has been mislabeled by the educational system That’s the decision this film so dramatically and powerfully illustrates. It realistically shows the strain that these decisions can have on the family dynamic.

The acting is superb. Kenya Sandy is very good as a child stuck on a system that doesn’t want to help him, Sandy doesn’t say much but the viewer can see the despair in his face and flashes of outward anger, but when he realizes he can’t read, all the emotion of that reality comes bubbling to the surface. Sharlene Whyte is wonderful, at first, she is torn, embarrassed to discuss her son’s problems, even at home, but after she makes that decision, she is transformed, she is a bull in a china shop, and Whyte makes that transformation believable. Naomi Ackie had really good chemistry with Kenya Sandy, it was like they were friends all along, but she also questions the teacher quite sharply, it’s a pivotal small performance. Josette Simon plays a persistently forceful character, and Simon gives a nicely understated performance.

Director Steve McQueen does a great job telling a small story with large implications. As he did before, he takes small, quiet moments in a character’s life and focusses the viewer’s attention on those moments, and let the viewer see and feel the character’s struggles without much dialogue. McQueen is also able to show competing narratives through the father character. The tension builds and is finally released in the climactic scene or set piece. He does this all in an economical 63 minutes. McQueen also gets great performances from a young and unknown cast.

Education: A Teaching Moment