- Reviewed from the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.
This is a heartfelt, playful portrait of students in the senior class at Lowell High, San Francisco, as they apply for dozens of universities with Ivy League goals.
Lowell is a selective public school in San Francisco with a great reputation for education, and from what director Debbie Lum captures it is clear that they are in supportive hands. Mr Shapiro stands out as a dream teacher, a generous mentor with an imaginative bowling-ball-pendulum flinch test.
Lum focuses on a handful of students, whose personalities and dilemmas are explored with emotional depth, humour and care. The majority of the student body are Asian-American, and the racist stereotyping from Ivy League institutions is deeply felt.
Despite being under crushing pressure and facing an array of hardships outside of school, the students are endearing, impressive and resilient. Lum shines a light on their big characters, with some expressing their idiosyncratic confidence and earnest ambition by bringing Rushmore vibes – if Max Fischer was less arrogant and had actual academic prowess.
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