Movie Review: Education22nd December 2020
One final trip through history with Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series, Education follows Kingsley, a boy fascinated by space. This coming-of-age story showcases another example of how the education system fails those who need a sliver of extra support. Consolidating the idea that education is a right for all, Education engages with many ideas and moments that suggest our system of learning is just as flawed as it was forty years ago. Hard-pressed issues feature throughout as McQueen looks to finalise his work with one last jab at highlighting the social and political problems London’s West Indian community look to traverse.
McQueen’s focus on characters, much like Alex Wheatle and Lover’s Rock, spend much less time fawning over cinematography and shot framing. Most of our time with Education is spent in the throes of family life, and Kingsley’s sudden shift to a special school. Not enough is done to provide engaging supporting performances, something McQueen attempts from time to time here, the restraint of the running time once more taking his work miss the mark. Kingsley’s friends are important for all of ten minutes, we see none of them after he transitions from one school to the other. Perhaps that showcases how moving schools will inevitably lead to lost friendships, but I find that hard to believe, and even if that were the case, Education doesn’t put together interesting characters for Kingsley to riff with.
Busy minds have no time to dig deep into their problems, Education shows that well enough with the segregation on display. As ever with Small Axe, there are consistent horrors everyone can attest to, allowing for the build-up of a problem McQueen deems important. Nobody liked school, and if they did it was clearly because they value learning about trigonometry and enjoy having people melt your pens with Bunsen burners. Never happened to me, clearly. Kenyah Sandy’s leading performance as Kingsley is superb, kindling the flames of a great leading man with a considerable variety to his craft already.
Small Axe ends not with a bang, but with a noble pursuit of highlighting another social injustice. Our education system is failing the vulnerable and those that need help. Education highlights this well, a bold final statement from McQueen’s exceptional BBC collaboration. The emotionally charged finale, feeling like a great release of passion, once more showcasing the injustices many are turning a blind eye to. Great entertainment that at its core has such a strong and emotive message. Certainly not the strongest the series had to offer, but undoubtedly important and a resolute finish for one of the best projects the BBC has had a hand in creating in quite some time.