My Old School
Director: Jono McLeod
Talent: Alan Cumming, Dawn Steele, Lulu, Clare Grogan
Release Date: August 19
My Old School is a colourfully hybrid reimagining of the stranger-than-fiction tale which shocked Scottish news in 1993, equal parts hilarious and uncanny. 32-year-old Brian MacKinnon, here lip-synched by Alan Cumming in an attempt to maintain privacy, donned a fake name, his school satchel and a calculated perm, successfully conning his way back into the school he’d graduated from twenty years earlier and what is more, passing as a 16-year-old boy.
‘Brandon sang Younger than Springtime’ is said with the retrospective disbelief of one classmate who ended up playing opposite him in the school’s production of South Pacific (largely thanks to his Canadian accent – part of Brandon’s backstory). It’s also the part of the doc by classmate McLeod when a string of consistent ironies bursts into the unbelievable.
But McLeod makes a virtue of disbelief in this debut feature, interweaving whimsical animation, news footage and aspirational shots of the surgical unit Brandon hoped to enter as a doctor once readmitted to medical school, in achronological sequences which play on our gullibility and poke holes at what has veered into folk tale. Even the name is apocryphal: Bruce Lee’s son of the same name had died the year before playing a young man resurrected from the dead to take revenge on his enemies, while Brandon was also the name of the quintessential popular kid with his own car on 90210 – a dream MacKinnon had to rewind time to realise.
While Cumming is an endearing lip-syncher, the real stars of the feature are Brandon’s charismatic former classmates who reminisce to McLeod about the man who truly (to them, at least) became a friend, often changing their lives in touching and impactful ways. But if it starts sweet, the story turns bitter. In this, the gag-fuelled animation proves a powerful tool for McLeod to walk the line between innocent and the potentially sinister. Touching on social class, disappointment and the ethics of self-reinvention at all costs, My Old School is at its strongest when acting as a time capsule, but MacKinnon remains an elusive portrait.
Words: Lucy Ann McCabe