Dead Poets Society
Directed by Peter Weir
The movie really captures the oppressive and stifling nature of 1950s boarding schools, complete with the impersonal lesson delivery and the corporal punishment. We see how Keating would be a ray of light in that environment; he treats his students as fellow human beings. As well as making the subject more engaging, he also helps them to develop some self-confidence. The character will remind you of that one really awesome teacher you had in high school.
Possibly the movie undermines some of this by going all Patch Adams on us, as Keating’s unorthodox lessons gradually have less and less to do with English and he thus seems kind of bad at his job, such as when he teaches them how to walk in a non-conformist manner and stand on their desks, because that’ll show The System, or whatever. Here we start to side with the stuffy headmaster.
The film also follows several of his students and what they do with their newfound enthusiasm. One decides to go after a girl who has no interest in him, leading to some of the most awkward courtship scenes in the history of cinema. The other student subplots are more effective, and there are very good performances from young Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard (AKA Wilson from House), who hold their own alongside Williams.
All in all, this is a powerful movie that definitely warrants a recommendation. Be warned though: as with Good Will Hunting, it was already a potent tearjerker even when its star was still with us, and it’s doubly so now with the passing of the Captain.