Around the Block (NR)

Drama 104 min. August 1, 2014
By Katherine Vu
For every underprivileged high school shown in a movie, there can only be one teacher who cares enough to change it. And, of course, that teacher will be mocked and criticized for her belief in her students by drained faculty members and a racist, troubled community. They will see her idealism as an attack on their way of life and discourage her from doing any more than the bare minimum. "You should just be happy they even show up to class," one burned-out instructor will say. But this teacher will not be fazed because she has met her star pupil: a troubled young boy who's shown her his potential through dance or poetry or acting — or, in the case of Around the Block, all three! Writer-director Sarah Spillane's film limps from one overused trope to the next. Of course the optimistic English teacher, Dino Chalmers (Christina Ricci), fights against the septic school system by having her students put on a production of Hamlet. Of course the star student, Liam Wood (Hunter-Page Lochard), has an anguished home life that bears a striking resemblance to the tragic Prince of Denmark's. Of course there's a classroom scene in which Shakespearean verse is compared to rap, because how else could young people relate to it? Self-serious as an after-school special, subtle and nuanced as a kick to the face, Around the Block is an exercise in banality — remarkable only for the sheer number of hokey clichés that it fits in its 104-minute running time.
Sarah Spillane Christina Ricci, Hunter Page-Lochard, Jack Thompson, Damian Walshe-Howling, Ruby Rose, Andrea Demetriades, Daniel Henshall, Josh Quong Tart, Anthony Gee Sarah Spillane Random Media

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