SCHOOL LIFE — Review by Liz Whittemore

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School Life pulls at the heartstrings of this former substitute teacher and children’s theatre director with its effortless charm. Following a married couple who teach at an Irish boarding school, this doc will bring you back to the days where being away from home can be both all consuming and exciting. Continue reading

John and Amanda Leyden, the principal characters at the heart of School Life, could not be more different from one another. John teaches Latin, mathematics, and music, taking charge of the band. Amanda specializes in literature, tackling the school play with an exuberance one expects from a great drama teacher. He is curmudgeonly, stern, with a lovely heart at the center and she is vivacious and warm, letting a motherly intuition guide the children’s growth. They are a great pair, and their love for the students pours off the screen.

The film allows us to enter into the lives of the children as well. We get to experience their raw, oftentimes, emotional journey through a school year from start to finish. We’re privy to the unfiltered, still untainted insights only kids can provide to us. And, they are a delightful and very talented group of kids.

It takes extraordinary humans to touch a child’s life in the same way a teacher can. The Leydens are the stuff that parents’ and students’ dreams are made of. While they constantly ruminate about retiring, one thinks they never will and that’s all the better for anyone who has the privilege to come under their tutelage.

School Life is unrelentingly glorious in its sweet simplicity. There is every reason in the world to adore this film.

EDITOR’S NOTE: School Life has been selected as AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for September 1-8, 2017

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Liz Whittemore

Liz Whittemore is the author of AWFJ's I SCREAM YOU SCREAM blog. She is Co-Managing Editor and writes for, hosts the podcast Girls On Film and is a contributing writer for and The ArtsWireWeekly. Now New York-based, she was born and raised in northern Connecticut. She's a graduate of The American Musical & Dramatic Academy, and has performed at Disneyland and famed Hartford Children's Theater, and been a member of NYC's Boomerang Theater, Connecticut's Simsbury Summer Theater, Virginia's Offstage Theatre, where she also directed. Her film credits include Suburban Skies and Surrender. In 2008, she shot Jabberwocky, a documentary now in post-production. Liz is still a children's theatre director and choreographer. She's working on an updated adaptation of Romeo and Juliet and a series of children's books.