It would’ve been reasonable to expect a grittier, more intense telling of the tale in My Old School. In the initial clips, Alan Cumming looks suitably creepy as he lip syncs to Brian MacKinnon’s audio account of what went down at Bearsden Academy in 1993. But instead, the documentary balances the intense storyline with the natural humour of the cast.
Directed by Jono McLeod, My Old School sees 30 classmates and teachers (including the director himself) tell this story of shared memory that has become legend across Scotland. Each of the former Bearsden students brings their personality to their own version of events and it’s clear as they speak that they’ve told the story a million times.
Throughout, the film doesn’t attempt to carry itself like a classic documentary. Rather it feels like you’re down at the pub hearing your mates dish out the gossip they heard from their neighbour. This familiar, comforting feeling is part of what makes the film such an entertaining and enjoyable watch.
The interviews are broken up by animated reenactments reminiscent of the 90s cartoon Daria. At first, they seemed a little naff with their low budget caricature-esque renderings of the students. But, as everything began to unfold the reenactments proved their worth and any reservations about their effectiveness disappeared.
Alan Cumming’s word-perfect lip-sync to MacKinnon’s testimony is well executed and helps create an air of mystery. McLeod utilises tension well and allows the audience to draw their own conclusions from the interviews before hitting them in the face with the real truth.
Despite suspicions likely lingering in the back of viewers’ heads, the big reveal still makes for audible gasps from the crowd. As the truth sinks in, the reality of the situation becomes a little more serious and Mcleod handles this slight change in tone expertly.
Overall, while it maybe lacks general finesse, My Old School is a must-watch. It’s a well-told tale of mystery and deception filled with suspense, humour and intrigue. It’s clear that no one else could have told this story except those involved and Jono McLeod’s proximity to the scandal is undoubtedly a benefit, not a hindrance.
Featured Image Credit: Glasgow Film Festival/Dogwoof.