Home Page > Movies Index (w/mixed oldies) > > Movie Review

This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Serious Editing Flaws

Afterschool (2008) on IMDb

Plot Overview

It's easy enough to remedy one editing issue. Before you hit Play, go to the Bonus menu, select Promos/Videos, and then run AS Promo 1. Head­master Mr. Burke (Michael Stuhlbarg) gives a tidy presentation to parents concerning the “very safe and enjoy­able environment” of Bryton Academy (est. 1883). The second video, AS Memorial Service, concerns the tragic demise of the Talbert twins Mary & Anne during their senior year (2006) there. You don't need to run it, because it will be shown at the end of the movie proper. Mr. Burke touts the Academy as being “Isolated many miles away from the nearest city or town, which allows its students to focus … and keep a certain element out.” Long camera shots help emphasize this serene environment. Scenes of students diligently studying cinch it for many wealthy parents.

At the Academy we meet roommates, friends Sophomore Robert (Ezra Miller) and Senior Dave (Jeremy Allen White). It being a co-ed institution, whether these boys are free from distractions, I'll never tell. Wouldn't want to spoil it for any­one. Suffice it to say that aside from some adolescent voyeurism, Rob seems to apply him­self fairly well to his studies. He's in the same math class as his senior room­mate, and he knows the answer to the English Lit. teacher's question on one of Shakespeare's tragedies. Dave on the other hand copies his math home­work from Rob. Dave also borrows money from him at the end of the month. This in spite of Dave having after-school income from his petty end-user distribution of pot.

Rob is a social outcast who doesn't participate in any after-school activities, not even in sports. Dave is a social butterfly who hobnobs with the popular Talbert twins who've got their own source of cocaine in town. On the wall behind Dave's desk is a montage of pictures from all his activities. Rob's wall is blank. How­ever, Rob has a computer on his desk. Whether the Internet will allow the same isolation in 2006 as physical separation did in 1883, I'll never tell. Wouldn't want to spoil it.

Their two worlds are about to collide. At Morning Meeting Mr. Burke announces that each student is required to do an after-school activity, either a sport or a club. As “a little note in here, that could change your lives, maybe an activity you never knew of that'll turn out to be your calling later in life.” Rob joins the Audio/Video (AV) Club and is assigned to take some “establishment shots” of hall­ways and structures. While he's shooting a quiet hall­way, the twins are snorting a bad batch of coke in a room off it, and when they try to get help, one of them dies in Rob's arms. That sure changes his life, but whether in a macabre way that Mr. Burke hadn't expected, well, you guessed it, I'll never tell.


Mr. Burke wants his cadets to “uphold the values of Bryton.” As we see one of Dave's friends Trevor (Emory Cohen) wearing a small cross around his neck, the school counselor Mr. Virgil offering to pray with one of his charges, and the morning meetings occurring in what looks like a chapel, complete with stained glass windows, a podium, and pews, we may take it that Bryton's values are Christian, at least in a general way—no denominational affiliation is shown. So let's take the very basic, (Heb. 13:4) “Marriage is honour­able in all, and the bed undefiled: but whore­mongers and adulterers God will judge.” Trevor at least talks like a whoremonger in the cafeteria:

Trevor: Isn't your sister Maria, the senior?

Peter: I don't know.

Trevor: You know I fucked your sister.

Peter: Does she know that?

And he continues on in that vein, though whether he did the deed is doubtful. The point with his lecherous braggadocio is that it challenges the Christian values the students are sworn to uphold. Mr. Virgil even taps into it to draw out a reticent student:

Mr. Virgil: What do you think about your mom? Do you know that she's got crabs so big I ride them to work?

Robert: Uh ... your mom gets fucked for cash.

Mr. Virgil: Okay. Okay, fair enough. Right. See, that was easy. You just said what's on your mind.

Again, they've challenged the prohibition against adultery, which is another Bryton value. As for “Marriage [being] honour­able in all,” that would include the whole package including preliminary court­ship. I'm thinking something along the lines of fiction author Stuart Neville (27):

Ryan's mother changed the subject. “So, are you courting?”

Ryan felt the heat spread from his neck up to his cheeks. “No, Ma. You know I've no time for that.”

“Och, you're thirty six,” she said. “You'll be too old if you wait any longer.”

“Leave him alone,” Ryan's father said. “He's got enough time for that yet. There's old man Harney's boys are all past thirty, one of them's over forty, and he's no notion of letting them get married yet.”

Ryan's mother snorted. “Sure, why would he when he's got four big lads working for him and not a penny to pay for it? Our Albert's not a farmer. He should be finding himself a nice wee girl and getting settled.”

These are high schoolers, to be sure, but they are from affluence, and if it's not too early to consider a high school sweetheart for eventual marriage, well, at least the “nice wee girl” will have Bryton values. And if the marriage bed will be undefiled, then so will be the court­ship couch for the preliminaries. I'm thinking along the lines of, (Song of Solomon 8:1) “O that thou wert as my brother, that sucked the breasts of my mother! when I should find thee without, I would kiss thee; yea, I should not be despised.” In the common area a couple can be discerned necking on a couch off in the corner, ignored in favor of the lacrosse game on TV. That allows them to get to know each other with­out having to resort to excessive privacy that could lead to temptation, i.e. (ibid.):

“I'm far too busy,” Ryan said. “Besides, I'm living at the camp. I need a place of my own before I can go chasing after women.”

Ryan's mother sat back in her chair, raised an eyebrow, “And what would you need a place of your own for? No decent girl would go to a bachelor's home. And any that would, well, she wouldn't be the sort for marrying, would she?”

The banner on the wall reads: RESPECT YOURSELF. The Bryton cadets respect the partial privacy of the courting couple on the couch because the alternative of complete privacy (before marriage) would violate their standards of decency. But they're generally considerate, any­way; Rob is able to phone his mom from the door­way with­out fear of any­one eaves­dropping. He tells his mom, “I think I may not be a good person.” That brings us to the unintended consequences of a sequestered institution that still has access to the Internet.

“Afterschool” opens with Rob viewing some videos on YouTube, “little clips of things that seem real.” There's one of a baby laughing when its father (repeatedly) rips a paper in half. One of a cat pawing a piano key, to back­ground piano music. A “girl fight in hallway.” A bike rider who takes a spill when attempting to descend some stairs. A hanging. A bloody body in an urban war arena. And an unseen man interviewing a prostitute about her working name vs. her real name, before choking her some and then humping her. This last excites Rob to the point he mastur­bates to it. It's probably why he considers him­self “not a good person.” (Prov. 16:29-30) “A violent man enticeth his neighbour, and leadeth him into the way that is not good. He shutteth his eyes to devise froward things: moving his lips he bringeth evil to pass.”

These videos play themselves out across the whole movie. The two names of the whore get manifested as the twins. The ripping of the page is their separation. Their deaths involved falling down in the hall­way, bleeding, and one of them choking on her own blood—the rat poison they ingested likely caused hemorrhaging. Robert's answer in class about “reenacting the crime” plays itself out in his activities. He projects his guilt onto Dave and then fights with him in the hall, captured on video as “Prep school fight” listed right above the “girl fight in hallway” in the “similar videos” frame on YouTube.

The crux of the matter is that piano playing cat. Rob in the men's room seems to mimic its paw on the key when he uses his index finger to activate the automatic water dispenser to douse his heated head. Rob has the fine hands of a musician, a pianist as it were, with long delicate fingers. Indeed we'd much rather see him play a piano than choke some whore. Bryton Academy for all its values shows a decided disinterest in music, so there's no opportunity for Rob there to pursue this one activity he's good at, and for which he could become popular. A town or a city might offer him more opportunity. Even lacking Bryton's values, it's only common decency for a girl to remain a virgin until marriage, which is more than I can say for Rob's partner Amy (Addison Timlin) in the video project, who spends time alone with him in a room or in the woods. This is the irony that under­girds a slow moving plot.

Production Values

This film “Afterschool” (2008) was written and directed by Antonio Campos. It stars Ezra Miller, Jeremy Allen White, Emory Cohen and Addison Timlin. It's Emory Cohen's film debut. Good actors here were unable to come into their own since the director trying an almost documentary kind of film would not let their performances get in the way. The film is unrated, but be advised it contains drugs, sex scenes, foul language, and violence.

1 Corinthians 7Its most salient feature seems to be its catastrophic editing. In this slow moving picture, we are subjected to the torture of poor framing: the subject is off-screen or may appear twice, he's out of focus, or he's not centered, or part of him gets cut off in a closeup. It goes on and on. We expect the camera­man to snap out of it, but that doesn't happen … until he's replaced for the memorial service at the end. It was great! For this reason: The movie shows unintended consequences from Christians trying to make sure their children will marry only other Christians. Their zeal likely comes from misframing the teaching of Paul. Paul discusses mixed marriages in 1st Corinthians 7 which chapter is in the form of answers to the Corinthians' own questions about marriage. The answers should be framed beside their attendant questions, but lacking the questions, one should glean applicable questions from the rest of the canon … excluding 2nd Corinthians, of course, because that necessarily came after the answer book. It is common for Christian teachers to either ignore what Paul said explicitly about mixed marriage, or teach on it without reference to any particular scriptural question, or find a question he's supposedly answering in a book that's been written later than the answer. The result is studies up in arms against mixed marriages, more than Paul ever was, that torturously drone on and on. Suffering through them is like suffering through this movie. For a good allegorical movie on this subject, see my review of “Chicago.”

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This movie is more likely to appeal to cineasts, churchmen, teachers, and perverts than to a general audience. I liked it because I like all kinds of movies, and I rated it very high because it accomplished what it set out to do, make a subtle satire. It might not have as high marks in every­body's book. Judge your preference accordingly.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Good for Groups. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version.Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Neville, Stuart. Ratlines. New York: Soho Press, 2013. Print.