A few weeks ago, in the spirit of fall, I decided to watch Dead Poets Society with my sister. After hearing so much about it, I was pretty excited and certain that I’d come to like it.
Summary: A group of boys attending Welton Academy find themselves with a new, and rather eccentric, English teacher, Mr. Keating (Robin Williams), whose teaching methods are far from ordinary. Enticed by his demeanour and lessons, the boys revive the teacher’s old club—the Dead Poets Society—which leads them on a journey to “seize the day,” resulting in self-discovery, and, later, grief.
After having high expectations and my eyes glued to the TV for about two hours, I came to the conclusion that this movie is pretty . . . boring.
Now, before I get flamed, there were some aspects of the movie that I enjoyed. First off, it was absolutely beautiful in terms of aesthetic. The shots were lovely, especially those highlighted with fall colours, and the dark academia vibes were just as charming and prominent.
Second, of course, was the acting. The performances were fantastic all around, from the pure, heartfelt moments that made me smile to the heartbreaking emotional ones, specifically those at the end of the movie. The acting is what really brought the characters to life, which brings me to my third point: the characters, specifically the relationship between Todd and Neil.
More often than not, it’s the characters who make the movie, TV show or book truly great. When watching Dead Poets Society, I was more invested in Todd and Neil’s relationship than the movie itself. Their dynamic—the shy, quiet kid and the cheerful extrovert—was just too sweet; the way Neil helped Todd out of his shell and helped him smile demonstrated just how nurturing their friendship was. One of my favourite scenes, in which this dynamic is present, is when the two of them are on the walkway and Neil encourages Todd to throw his birthday present from his parents—a desk set he already owns—off the ledge so it can “fly.” Here, in a unique way, Neil offers Todd a kind of liberation – one that he’s never really known.
Though all of those individual aspects deserve five stars, the movie as a whole didn’t pass the mark. It lacked a real, solid central plot. Really, it was just a bunch of wayward rich kids reading poetry which, frankly, didn’t pique my interest enough.
Most disappointing, however, were the last few minutes. The ending of the film didn’t feel like an ending at all; it didn’t wrap things up. We get the O Captain! My Captain! moment to show some students are still on Keating’s side, then Keating just walks out the door. Definitely not a satisfying conclusion, definitely left me displeased.
After everything that happened, mainly after the climax, what are we left with? What exactly do we get out of the movie? We’re told to “seize the day” but Neil does just that and it ends terribly for him. And, as a result of his death, his friends and teacher are also ruined. So, where’s the lesson here?
As far as Robin Williams’ films go, Dead Poets Society is probably my least favourite that I’ve watched so far. Despite his great performance (as per usual), his other movies like Jumanji, Hook and Night at the Museum are far more interesting and much closer to my heart.
All in all, this movie definitely gave me the cozy fall vibes I was looking for, but not an interesting enough story in which I could get truly invested. Next time I need a touching yet somewhat uplifting movie. I’ll stick to Good Will Hunting.