April Chen (Celine Tsai) is a college student with a promising career in computer science ahead of her. She has the brains and the talent and is days away from graduating, until she gets accused of cheating in her history class by Keith Ward (Jonathon Keltz), a teaching assistant.
Brought up in front of a tribunal, April and her representative, Micah Shaw (Mpho Koaho) have to prove her innocence, but as the tribunal goes forward there are more inappropriate discrepancies and corruption revealed across the board.
Stealing School is a dark comedy drama written and directed by Li Dong. Using the setting of a college, Stealing School sets up its characters and it starts off as any other typical college set drama. However, Dong’s script is full of well observed, nuanced characters and a script that mostly tries to play it straight, but is littered with wry humour and occasional laugh out loud moments.
There’s also the issue of race which Dong picks up on, however it never feels like a film that is meant to teach its audience something or preach to a choir. Instead, Stealing School shows the unconscious bias that happens in such a system without making it the main issue of the story. It even takes time to make fun of the casual racism that Asians face every day.
The clever thing about Stealing School is how every single character is slowly revealed for who they really are throughout the course of the film. This not only fleshes them out and makes them more three dimensional, but offers up surprises for the audience which will keep them compelled as more secrets are spilled.
Even April’s innocence is questionable, keeping the audience guessing until the very last moment.
There are confrontations, confessions and even a little sabotage thrown in the mix in order to make the audience wonder where the story will go next and whose word they can really take as written. Stealing School may raise certain issues that may resonate with some audiences, but those who are looking for a black and white answers may be surprised.
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