Review - Film - Stars and gripes of a learning lottery

17th June 2011 at 01:00


Director: Davis Guggenheim

Starring: Geoffrey Canada, George Reeves, the Black Family

Cert: PG

Out now on DVD

Rating: 4 out of 5

The stories of Anthony, Francisco, Bianca, Daisy and Emily make up the engrossing film Waiting for Superman. Director Guggenheim follows a handful of promising kids through an education system of "drop-out factories" and "academic sinkholes" in the US.

On the one hand, the system seems fair as it doesn't always judge people on how talented they are, but on the other, sometimes there are people who might be really talented but don't get to reach their full potential.

The tagline for the documentary is: "The fate of our country won't be decided on a battlefield, it will be determined in a classroom."

This is a very good tagline as it is shocking to see how bad some schools can be, especially in America, which is a rich place that people like to visit.

The film was captivating to watch and I enjoyed the ending, even though it was sad for some people. The system the government came up with in the end is very fair, as everyone gets an equal chance to be accepted into a school.

The music makes this film even better as it achieves the right mood for each scene. This helps to create an appropriate atmosphere.

I would give this film four out of five stars because it was really interesting to see how the American government tries to sort out the education problems and how students at schools in different places cope with the problems of the school.

Ashley Gregory, 12, Aston Academy, Rotherham

Rating: 4 out of 5

At a time when the education system in the UK is undergoing some of the greatest changes in its history, watching Guggenheim's exploration of the system that is failing so many in America seems timely and pertinent.

Through following five very different students in their quest for a better future, Waiting for Superman brings to the fore the essential point that education is not just a system for the many, but has implications for the life of each and every child who goes through that system. Each child literally enters a lottery for their future.

The director manages to effectively intertwine hard-hitting statistics with the personal realities of the children who take a leap of faith each morning as they walk to school. If that walk is to Locke High School, they are hoping they will not end up being one of the two-thirds of students who fail to graduate. If it is to Roosevelt High, that they are one of the 3 per cent that makes it to university.

It becomes increasingly apparent why each family in the film enters a lottery to get their child into a better school. Watching as the fate of each is decided is barely tolerable, especially in the knowledge that even if they do get a place, another child will not.

That said, the film is not lacking in hope. It shows how many people there are out there fighting to ensure that the "academic sinkholes" and "failure factories" become a thing of the past. Guggenheim tells us that the fate of America is being decided in the classroom; let's hope that the public education system will start to finally meet its promise for everyone.

Dawn Hindle, Filmclub leader, Aston Academy, Rotherham



Director: Tom Hooper

Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter

Cert: 12

Out now on DVD

Rating: 5 out of 5

Colin Firth stars as Prince Albert, the Duke of York, who struggles with giving speeches due to a terrible stammer. Worried about her husband, the Duchess of York (played brilliantly by Helena Bonham Carter) seeks help from speech therapist Lionel Logue.

They spend day after day trying new exercises and, over time, become friends. But when the King of England dies, David, Prince of Wales and Albert's older brother, becomes King Edward VIII.

David has plans to marry a divorced American socialite named Wallis Simpson. Prince Albert, or Bertie, tries to warn David that he cannot marry a divorced woman and retain the throne, but David ignores his brother.

Aggravated by his brother's stupidity, Bertie turns to Lionel for help, but soon causes a rift in their friendship when Lionel suggests that Bertie could be king, and Bertie, not wanting the throne due to his impediment, mocks Logue's failed acting career in retaliation.

Things only go from bad to worse. When King Edward abdicates to marry Wallis, Bertie becomes King George VI. It is only now that he realises that he needs Lionel more than ever.

Colin Firth proves himself to be one of the greatest actors of all time. This film also blends in a bit of comedy, notably in the scene where he curses a lot during speech therapy.

Overall, an amazing film that anyone could like. You will never see another film like this.

Robbie Jones, 13, Beechwood School, Slough.


Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud

Starring: Guy Pearce, Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Freddie Highmore

Cert: U

Out now on DVD

Rating: 5 out of 5

The first time I saw this film, I found it boring and unenjoyable. What made me think that, I do not know. When I saw it again I was amazed. I love it.

It is the simple story of the separation of two tigers (the brothers of the title), Kumal and Sangha, during the early 20th century. One is taken care of by a hunter while the other becomes the pet of a young boy. Both, however, end up forced to be enemies.

Treating the animals as human is just one of the many things I enjoyed throughout. Along with some other films I have seen, The Secret of Kells for example, this is proof that the Europeans are leading in the family genre.

Yann Atzmon, 11, Anson Primary School, Brent, north-west London

Filmclub, an educational charity supported by Lovefilm, sets up after-school clubs where children meet to watch, discuss and review thought-provoking films. Each week members of Filmclub will review everything from new releases to classic and world cinema. Free to state schools. Find out more at www.filmclub.orgregister.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today