Panorama | Contemporary World Cinema
Canadian-born, New Zealand-raised Alison Maclean (remember Crush from VIFF 93?) makes a fine comeback with this deeply felt and superbly directed drama about a group of acting students coming to grips with their personal and professional lives under the tutelage of a great teacher (Kerry Fox, perfect). The film concentrates on the initially shy Stanley (James Rolleston), 18 and fresh from the countryside, who is accepted into the prestigious school and finds himself wrestling with questions of identity and morality when his classmates decide to dramatize a local scandal involving an affair between a tennis coach and his much younger female charge. Stanley’s problem? He knows the tennis player in question—he’s dating her sister—and is loathe to exploit the scandal for mere “artistic” purposes… Structuring her film across the whole of the school year, Maclean finds all of life in the microcosm of the classroom, delivering a marvellous drama that does not lack for humour or emotion.
“In one of The Rehearsal’s electrifying early scenes, Kerry Fox’s no-nonsense acting teacher warns her new students about the pressures that await. ‘You’ve probably heard things, that this first term is a physical and emotional undoing,’ she advises. Her words loom over a narratively teasing, structurally taut and emotionally textured adaptation of Man Booker award-winning author Eleanor Catton’s first novel, as writer/director Alison Maclean crafts a drama that’s as piercing as it is potent… As a director, Maclean’s instincts are as finely tuned as her excellent cast, and as multifaceted.”—Sarah Ward, Screen