Michael Ward on Wednesday, May 30
The rigors of learning piano are brought to light in the Irish documentary, Making the Grade, which presents a number of teachers and students working their way through drills, scales, and practice sessions to pass a strenuous examination and well, make the grade.
For awhile, Making the Grade is a lot of fun, and eventually we move through nine different grade levels of student and teacher, with the students representing kids of all ages. From ambitious young boys and girls, to a death metal guitarist "in between bands right now", director Ken Wardrop veers away from any potential "Dance Moms"-style drama and focuses earnestly on the connections made between teacher and student.
Frustrations surface among students and teacher alike. Wardrop captures those students who don't put in the time and the exasperation from the teachers because of it. You also see the instances when earning the piano may mean more to the parents than it does the children and vice versa. Also, as expected, the students who thrive and flourish are impressive and their talent knows next to no limitations.
While Wardrop captures the symbiotic nature that can lead to progress and success, but also stumbles and failures, the ultimate results of the student examinations are left out of the film.
This lack of closure may not bother some viewers, but it does render the movie somewhat incomplete. Additionally, the film becomes episodic and repetitive, and after awhile, Making the Grade begins to feel like an intriguing lecture or talk that runs too long, or loses the ability to say something new.
There remains plenty to like and appreciate here, so although the film loses steam in the last 20 minutes or so, Making the Grade reminds us of the importance that teachers can play in guiding people to conquering new challenges they never realized were possible.
And that remains a message we can only hear more and more about in this increasingly cynical world.
Director: Ken Wardrop
Running Time: 85 MInutes
May 22 | SIFF Cinema Uptown | 6:30 PM
May 26 | SIFF Egyptian | 11:00 AM
June 3 | Kirkland Performance Center | 7:00 PM