Nick Cutler (Alan Dukes) leads the cast in Heath Davis‘ comedy, Book Week, as a philandering, irascible, jaded English teacher at Little Fields High. Nick’s bike ride to school in the opening scene, puffing on a cigarette without a helmet (!) with folksy music playing could place it in any American campus, where this premise has been explored more in film. Think Ed Rooney in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or Mr Strickland in the Back to the Future trilogy. Davis (writer, director and producer) certainly had the ingredients for a witty movie: a protagonist that loathes his job and almost everyone around him, yet a genuine love for books and the power to be transported by stories. Add to that a devoted partner and fellow teacher, Melanie (Rose Riley) and sassy remarks from star pupil, Margot (Matilda Ridgway) and one-night stand and, days later, prac’ teacher, Sarah (Airlie Dodds) and you’ve a recipe for situational comedy.
Yet Nick Cutler is such a vile, remorseless character that even the one student that really looks up to him, Tyrelle (Thuso Lekwape), whom Cutler put in a good word for when Tyrelle had trouble with the law, becomes a mere pawn in Cutler’s attempt to glean grace in a newspaper article, promoting the possible publication of his second novel. Nick’s father, played by Glen Robinson, is the only one that tells it like it is. And its Robinson’s acerbic delivery and disinterest in his son that makes us realise Nick is not just a product of his lifestyle, but a chip off the old block. I was certainly not rooting for success for this unworthy soul.
The few times that Book Week proved refreshing and Nick’s flawed character showed signs of redemption was when his prac’ teacher, Sarah, shared the screen. Her succinct, honest overview of the situation and genuine love of teaching stood in contrast to the overly dramatic or bumbling characters at Little Fields High. If anything, this movie reveals the fickle nature of the writing industry. Cutler’s new manuscript about zombies is asked to be rewritten by Dumber and Even Dumber, the fast-talking, slow-witted, Millenial publishers, to include vampires, as they “..are trending now”. Book Week is interspersed with some profound quotes from literature, but in this film, books are merely the flavour of the month. Ultimately, Nick Cutler has to rewrite his life; to decide whether to remain loyal to Melanie, continue teaching, support his sister, (Susan Prior) and see if there’s a happy ending for all involved.