Arriving on the back of 2010’s ‘Potiche’, this is the latest French language film from director Francois Ozon, based on the play ‘The Boy in the Last Row’, by Juan Mayorga. It stars Fabrice Luchini as Germain, a slightly jaded failed novelist, now appropriately teaching English at the ‘Gustave Flaubert High School’, wherein he encounters a promising young student, Claude (Ernst Umhauer), whose potential gift reawakens a kind of hopeful excitement in his teacher, as he effectively takes him on as his protégé. The only problem is, his writing is a little subversive, and concerns the family of another pupil, creating a story within a story with the viewer not always sure what is real and what is fiction.
Unfortunately, the prose about this family, updates from which Claude continually hands to his teacher for feedback, which is supposed to draw the audience in, much as it is doing to the onscreen readers (Germain’s wife, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, also partakes), simply isn’t that interesting. The unfolding melodrama unconvincingly overstates both the skill of Claude, and the susceptibility of the adults around him so that, ultimately, it just becomes a little silly, a little hollow, and ironically, as Germain goes to greater and greater lengths to explain what makes a good story to his eager pupil, the characters onscreen become increasingly two dimensional.