Small Axe: Education (2020)

DailyView: Day 294, Movie 417

The fifth and final film in the Small Axe series, Education, is the shortest of the series. I really enjoyed two films in the series (Mangrove & Red, White & Blue), while the two others (Lovers Rock and Alex Wheatle) were not my favorites. Education will see which way the series, directed by Steve McQueen, will tilt for me. Education packs quite the punch as the wrap up of the five film series dealing with the racism and challenges faced by the West Indian population in London.

Education is one of two fictional stories of the Small Axe series. As a teacher, it is also the one that I related to the most.

12-year old Kingsley (Kenyah Sandy) caused problems at his school with his behavior and struggled to read. When the school identified Kingsley as someone who should be sent to a “special” school, Kingsley’s parents (Sharlene Whyte, Daniel Francis), who were desperately busy with their jobs, just went along with it.

However, the special school Kingsley attended did nearly nothing to teach or help the students, leaving them to, basically, do whatever they wanted. Kingsley realized quickly that he had been sent somewhere to be removed.

When Hazel (Naomi Ackie) arrived at the “educationally subnormal school” trying to find out the names of the students, she met Kingsley and that led her to his home. Kingsley’s mother did not want to hear the truth at first, but, after educating herself, she became a fearsome advocate for her son.

I was totally engrossed with this movie. It was such a painful reminder about how the education system can get in the way of some students, especially when there is a systematic racist undertow. There are scenes in this movie that I recognize, and that was even more difficult to comprehend.

There is such a message of hope on display and the idea that, with supportive parents, many children, even those dismissed or forgotten, can raise above the expectations. There were a few moments where I felt emotional watching this as the story and the situation it described resonated soundly with me.

Small Axe: Education was the shortest of the five films at 63 minutes, and I would have liked it to be longer. Although it does a decent job of showing us Kingsley and his life, I would have loved to go into greater detail with his family, learn more about his parents and how they became the way they did. This was touched on, but another 20 minutes or so would have really made this character piece even stronger than it was.

The scene where Kingsley’s mother finally confronted him about his reading ability was extremely powerful and beautifully acted, in particular by Kenyah Sandy. He was very solid in what he was given, and I would have loved to have seen his part written with more to it.

Small Axe: Education brought the Small Axe series to a fittingly solid ending. Even with the episodes that I did not love, I appreciated the efforts and the experimental styles used overall. Steve McQueen brought five wholly original and powerful works of art that brought to life the sometimes chaotic lives of the West Indian population in London. I may not have loved every one, but I respect the journey.

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