My Old School
My Old School

My Old School

2022, NR, 104 min. Directed by Jono McLeod. Voices by Juliet Cadzow, Clare Grogan, Michelle Gallagher. Starring Alan Cumming.

REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Aug. 5, 2022

The strangest stories are often cloaked in the mundane. After all, is there anything really peculiar in a new student in class? Sure, it may be a little odd that he has the same name as a famous actor, and he may look a little older, and being Canadian he might have an accent, but isn't every high schooler a little odd?

So what was the ultimate oddness that made 17-year-old Brandon Lee, a student at Bearsden Academy, a public high school in one of the more comfortable neighborhoods of Glasgow, into headline news across Scotland? That's the revelation in the intriguingly quirky My Old School, and it's that he was actually a 32-year-old man called Brian McKinnon who managed to con everyone into believing that he was a teenager with the same name as the star of The Crow.

My Old School never quite gets to who McKinnon really is, because there may not even be a real McKinnon under all the layers of self-serving deception. Or there may be, and he's such an extraordinary liar that it's impossible to get to the core of his story. Instead, director Jono McLeod assembles all of their old school pals (yes, he was in the same class as "Lee") as they try to unpick what they knew, what they thought they knew, what everyone thought they knew, and what they've misremembered to this day. While they're all affable enough, McLeod adopts two devious devices to sparkle up their shared story. First, because the ever-manipulative McLeod agreed to be interviewed but not on camera, he has Alan Cumming lip sync to his dialogue (not-so-coincidentally, Cumming was supposed to play McKinnon in an abandoned biopic). Secondly, there are animated sequences, done in the style of MTV's acerbic high school comedy Daria, with an opening sequence calling back to long-running British high school soap Grange Hill. Those devices are what stop the lengthy My Old School from dragging and also, in their own way, reinforce that everyone is susceptible to a good lie if it's told … not even convincingly enough. In a way that you'd like to believe. Disturbing as My Old School becomes, there's relief to be had in knowing that's all McKinnon did.

"That's an extremely uncomfortable walk down memory lane," as one of Lee's old classmates notes after watching a particularly (in hindsight) disturbing production of South Pacific. That's an understatement, as the cuteness of the story decays in the closing act, and the seemingly harmless crime takes its toll on those caught up in McKinnon's's deceit – some of whom engage in their own lies and self-delusions as McKinnon's identity is uncovered – and as the falsehoods stack up and fall away, My Old School will increasingly leave you slack-jawed. The only suitable response comes from another classmate. Eek.

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My Old School, Jono McLeod, Alan Cumming

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