Following the suicide of his friend Cian after being caught cheating in his exams Fionn (Garret Baker) sets out to beat the system and find a way to cheat in the Leaving Certificate.
This simple premise is executed in classic Hollywood caper style, with various team members brought together for their expertise; the electronics expert, the locksmith etc. This kind of heist film has been done so may times before but is pulled off with a certain kind of style here. It is nice to see a Hollywood style film like this played out in Ireland and the black and white photography adds to the classic feel. The film is written in a sparse style by Tadhg O Higgins, Aislinn O Loughlin and director Graham Jones and is filmed in much the same way. It does feel at times that you are looking at a well made home movie and I can only imagine it was shot on a very low budget which for most of the running time it manages to hide.
Thanks to the complaints of our politicians, particularly Junior Minister for Education at the time Willie O Dea, the film received some no doubt welcome free pubicity. No doubt those same politicians had not even seen the movie because if they had all they would have seen was a passionate argument about the need for reformation of the education system. The shock tactic of cheating the system is a great way to bring this debate right into the heart of the political arena.
The acting in the film from the young and unknown cast is ok, with some doing better than others. There is a host of cameo roles from some of Irelands best known celebreties of the time including Eamon Morrissey, Mick Lally, Shay Healy and Joe Duffy. But the kudos must go to pop star Chris de Burgh who all but steals the film in an hilarious and creepy two minute turn. 'Athlone is the centre of Ireland, did you know that? Ann maybe the centre of the universe'. Wonderful stuff and probably the best line in the film.
How to Cheat in the Leaving Certificate is not a classic by any means but is certainly a film worth seeking out. But don't think for a second you can just go out and buy it as it does not seem to be available on DVD. Considering the sheer number of mediocre films on DVD it seems a shame that it is not available as a DVD. It would seem a release just before the Leaving Certificate with maybe a commentary by the director and writers and some extre footage of the politicians reactions to the film would make a nice little package. How are we supposed to have a proper film industry if we cannot even buy the films that we make? A debate for another day perhaps. If you do want to see it you can do as I did and watch on Youtube below. We should do a little better than this.
Should there be more older Irish films released on DVD?
Which ones would you like to see? Let me know below.