What is life like for teens enrolled in a high-pressure drama program at a school in New Zealand? “The Rehearsal,” directed by Alison Maclean (“Jesus’ Son”) from a novel by Eleanor Catton and co-written by Maclean and Emily Perkins, focuses primarily on two youngsters who meet on a bus and become close as they wend their way through the intricacies of the school training and a scandal that occurs.
Both students are appealing—Stanley, played earnestly by James Rolleston, and the slightly younger Isolde, portrayed by Ella Edward with youthful innocence but sensitive curiosity and the need for an attachment. The scandal that surfaces involves Isolde’s tennis-playing older sister in an intimacy with the school’s tennis instructor.
The toughest taskmaster teaching drama is Hannah, played accordingly by Kerry Fox, whose method is tough love. She spots talent in Stanley, whom she wants to nurture, but her hard manner can deeply affect others who melt under her nasty pressure.
Beneath it all is the customary teenage angst that plays out in a familiar style, whether in New Zealand or anywhere else. Pressures mount and emotional conflicts result in hurtful behavior. To make matters worse, Isolde’s father is hostile to Stanley and orders him to stay away from her.
A tragic situation arises involving a student, and schoolmates have to deal with it. There are also the pressures that mount in the need to present a school play and the subject chosen. Teachers confront their own problems as well.
Although Stanley and Isolde are certainly appealing, one can tire of the plot’s manipulations. Still, “The Rehearsal” does give us a glimpse of the strivings of young people with talent and the obstacles encountered even before entering the larger competitive world of potential professional success and the quest for fulfillment in personal relationships. A Mongrel International release. Reviewed July 7, 2017.