The documentary College Life initially had a way more provocative title, In Loco Parentis, which is a authorized time period meaning “within the place of fogeys.” It implies, nevertheless vaguely, one thing missing in a toddler’s mom and/or father—and College Life doesn’t spend a lot time on dad and mom in any respect. As an alternative, the main focus of this fly-on-the-wall movie is the scholars and lecturers at Eire’s Headfort College, a spot that manages to be each an idyllic throwback and a forward-thinking inspiration. Headfort is a boarding college for primary-aged children from 7 to 13. It’s an costly, non-public establishment that’s been round since 1949. You wouldn’t know any of that from College Life, although, because the movie options no titles, little or no in the best way of background, no narration, and no actual try on the regular documentary story arc.
Which isn’t to say there’s no story in any respect: The movie focuses on married couple John and Amanda Leyden, who’ve been educating at Headfort for greater than 40 years. They reside on the grounds of the gorgeous Irish property, and their lives are clearly immersed of their jobs. They’re additionally splendidly, creakingly, hilariously British—him dry as a bone however clearly enamored of his college students, her a loving fussbudget that will absolutely be performed by Judi Dench in a film with extra story to inform. They chat about their pupils with English detachment of their voices, however they clearly perceive how a lot good they’re doing. The movie doesn’t have to beat you over the pinnacle with the concept treating kids like people will consequence of their turning into higher ones—it reveals that, again and again, however by no means tells. In a few scenes, administrators Neasa Ní Chianáin and David Rane attempt to mine some thriller by having the Leydens talk about leaving the varsity, however as John places it, “If we don’t come right here, what would we do all day? Simply sit round doing much less and fewer and getting extra decrepit.” They whereas away their free moments sitting close to a window and smoking cigarettes collectively. To not be morbid, however they’re the form of couple who’ll work till they’ll’t anymore, after which die inside a couple of days of one another, having executed essential work with little acknowledgment.
Besides, in fact, from the kids whose lives they’ve made indelible impressions on. College Life focuses on three: a dyslexic boy named Ted, a remarkably shy however proficient lady, Eliza; and Florence, a mannequin who’s come to Headfort from unique London after having a tricky time at school there. The Leydens appear to instinctively know deal with them, with a mix of powerful love and no-nonsense compassion—and all throughout the context of giving them one thing good to chew on. One minute they’re discussing Gandhi, the following homosexual marriage, and the following (and plenty of extra) they’re in John’s bizarre little music room, studying to play no matter pop songs they fancy, from the punk gem “Teenage Kicks” to Rihanna’s “Diamonds.” It’s the form of college that would by no means exist in in the present day’s America: It’s too freewheeling, too unstructured. Possibly it gained’t exist in Eire for much longer both, so it’s factor that College Life manages to seize its bizarre, fantastic world.