Alan Dukes, Airlie Dodds, Susan Prior, Rhys Muldoon, Rose Riley, Steve Le Marquand
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“Book Week is a little gem of a film.”
The crumpled, under-achieving, slightly lecherous but still somehow charming literary professor/teacher type is a familiar trope when it comes to American films, but is far less prevalent here in Australia. Book Week – the new film from writer/producer/director, Heath Davis, who announced himself as a major talent to watch with his striking 2016 debut, Broke – shoots to redress the balance, and in the figure of misanthropic author turned high school teacher, Nick Cutler (superbly played by regular film and TV supporting player, Alan Dukes), we get a wonderfully lived-in character to rival Michael Douglas in Wonder Boys or Joaquin Phoenix in Irrational Man. Cutler is irresponsible, immature, self-centred, mean-spirited and pretentious…in short, he’s not the kind of guy that you’d like to actually hang out with, but he makes for an utterly compelling screen creation.
Vaguely famous for a book that he wrote eight years ago (and equally infamous for the mess of boozy bad behaviour that accompanied its publication), Cutler is now toiling away unhappily at Little Fields High School, dealing with disinterested students and a world that feels like it’s passing him by. But when a hip publishing company (hilariously embodied by Toby Schmitz and Khan Chittenden) looks set to pick up his latest novel, Cutler’s life starts to look up. Self-sabotage, however, is his business, and a pair of ill-judged romantic entanglements (with Susan Prior and Airlie Dodds, both excellent), along with his own bad attitude, soon threatens Nick Cutler’s imminent success.
Wittily scripted, sharply characterised, and smartly performed (Rose Riley, Pippa Grandison, Steve Le Marquand, Rhys Muldoon, Tiriel Mora, Maya Stange, Nicholas Hope and Jolene Anderson all do great work in small roles), Book Week is a little gem of a film. It not only celebrates the joy of reading (and learning), but also the ability of people to change for the better. You always get the feeling that there’s a better man beneath Nick Cutler’s sour exterior, and Alan Dukes ingeniously reveals his character’s true self slowly and authentically as the film unspools. It’s a lovely portrait piece, and Book Week is nothing short of a cinematic page-turner.