This observational documentary follows a year in the lives of two inspirational teachers in the only primary-age boarding school in Ireland. Headfort, a school not unlike Hogwarts with its 18th century buildings, secret doors and magical woodlands has been home to John and Amanda Leyden for 46 years and a backdrop to their extraordinary careers.For John, rock music is just another subject alongside Maths, English, Scripture and Latin, all of which are taught in a collaborative and often hilarious fashion. Tucked away in a cellar that’s home to the school’s two rock bands, John nurtures a special kind of youth revolution that teaches responsibility and independence in equal measure, wrapped up in heavy metal or pop or, as he tells the kids, they can play whatever they want, as it’s their space.
For Amanda the key to connecting with children is the book and she uses all means to snare the young minds. Her lair, a charming room from the 1800’s with curved doors and old bookshelves, is packed to the rafters with thousands of titles from every genre and for every taste. The children sit transfixed as she takes them on magical journeys with fantastical characters from tales of all kinds. Past pupils who visit remind her of their shared literary expeditions with a sense of awe – Amanda just nods and smiles.
Is the school an anachronism in this globalised world or a clever remake of the flawed British public school model? It’s certainly a contradiction: the epitome of establishment, it’s presided over by a leftward-leaning headmaster who eschews class in favour of achievement, but retains the links that connect Headfort to the levers of power. It’s a skill the headmaster could have learnt from John Leyden who taught him, when he was a pupil at Headfort, just as he produced a slew of other high achievers, now captains of industry, famous artists and academics.
For nearly half a century John and Amanda have shaped thousands of minds but now the unthinkable looms: what would retirement mean they muse. Headfort School, spanning the ancient and the ultra modern has been their life and passion and so they’ve challenged the march of time by absorbing an endless supply of energy and young ideas from their wards – but who will keep them young if they leave?
A REMARKABLE NEW FILM
A MAGICAL SETTING REMINISCENT OF HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY
A MAGICAL SENSE OF A GIANT EXTENDED SLEEP-OVER
DELICATELY EXECUTED IN EVERY DEPARTMENT
ECCENTRIC, OLD-FASHIONED, CHARMINGLY ANACHRONISTIC….
A DELIGHTFUL CROWD-PLEASER
A FINITE POETRY
A WARM WORK OF CINÉMA VÉRITÉ
The Film Stage
TONS OF CHARM
A FILM SURE TO WARM EVEN THE MOST JADED HEART
THESE ARE NO ORDINARY EDUCATORS
UNIQUE AND OLD-FASHIONED EDUCATIONAL SETTING
Salt Lake Tribune
A FASCINATING, NATURALISTIC AND OBSERVATIONAL FORAY INTO THIS SCHOOL
THE CAMERA … HAS THE LIGHT TOUCH OF A WELCOMED GUARDIAN ANGEL, NOT AN INTRUDER.
FASCINATING AND HEART-WARMING
AN UTTERLY ABSORBING PORTRAIT
SCHOOL LIFE MANAGES TO CAPTURE [A] WEIRD, WONDERFUL WORLD
A LOVING PORTRAIT
New York Times
Original title: In loco parentis
Internacional title: School Life
Running time: 99 min
Shooting format: 2K
Screening format: DCP Color 2K
Country of productions: Ireland, Spain
Original language: English
Production companies: Soilsiu Films, Gris Medio, RTVE – Corporación de Radio y Televisión Española
Year of production: 2016
Release date: 2017
Aspect ratio: 1:85
Sound: Dolby 5.1