My Old School  (15) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Jono McLeod, UK, 2022, 105 mins,

Cast:  Alan Cummings, Lulu, Claire Grogan

Review by Carol Allen

My Old School is a documentary about an event which caused something of a media stir back in the nineties, particularly in Scotland.  Though it is far more of an entertainment than your average documentary.

The story was about one Brandon Lee, a 16 year old boy who enrolled at Bearsden Academy in Glasgow in 1992.  Only, as was later discovered, Brandon wasn’t his real name – it was Brian MacKinnon – and he wasn’t 16 but 32.   And the teachers, who had taught him first time round, never recognised him. 

One of his classmates in that second time around was the film’s director Jono McLeod. McLeod has found a most entertaining way of telling his story.  He interviews his classmates of the time, filmed in a classroom at school desks, as they share their memories of this strangely mature and odd looking new student.  One black student in particular remembers “Brandon” with affection for the way he befriended and defended him. 

MacKinnon agreed to be interviewed for the film by McLeod but in voice only, so he is played as a now middle aged man by actor Alan Cummings, lip synching to MacKinnon’s voice.   

Cummings is of a more amiable appearance than the rather strange looking MacKinnon, whom we later see in news footage in his thirties and in a video of the school production of South Pacific in which he gets to kiss his then 16 year old leading lady.  Bit creepy that, as is the way his former classmates have whitewashed that incident in their memories from a full blooded snog down to a quick peck.

The most entertaining aspect of the film though is the way much of the story of Brandon’s schooldays is told through delightful and charming animation under the direction of Rory Lowe with characters voiced by actors, including Lulu and Claire Grogan and with the character’s avatar playing out the story often juxtaposed with the real person, now thirty years older, recalling the incident.  

It all hangs together beautifully in an original and very effective manner.

As for Brandon/Brian’s motives, was he really having a second go at passing the exams to get him into medical school, as he later claimed?  Or was he a fantasist wanting to once more live the “happiest days of his life”?   Was there anything sinister in his actions or was he just a harmless eccentric?  The film leaves the questions open for you to decide.