March 20, 2023
The Substitute out now in UK Cinemas from Sovereign Film Distribution

Film Review – The Substitute (2022)


Not to be confused with 1996 urban retro American classic, The Substitute starring resilient Tom Berenger, ghostbuster Ernie Hudson and Heat alumni Diana Venora; this is an Argentinian classroom potboiler concerning troubled teens alongside their determined replacement teacher.

Hang on! That sounds exactly like the 96′ version and its 1998 sequel.

Things have certainly changed in schools since the glorious 90s but drugs still remain a factor for students to be involved with.

Set in Buenos Aires we follow the plight of Lucio (Juan Minujin) an educator in a tough neighbourhood. He attempts to bond with the kids in the classroom with literature or historical quotes, but it isn’t until the drugs appear that interest levels rise for all.

Deciding to step in to assist a student with contraband, Juan immediately gains attention from Olmos, a local drug baron, putting a target on his back, the wrong guy, at the wrong time in the wrong place. Sound familiar?

Literally the politics of criminals come to the fore as Olmos has ambitions of becoming mayor. Were the drugs planted, that is the curious case the plot endeavours to answer.

Lucio kind of stands up for himself and his under siege students providing essential thills and spills in a movie that mostly focusses on high stakes drama.

El Suplente is complimented by the superior cinematography of Wojciech Staron. crafting the most eloquent images from study rooms to back streets to skylines to closeups on a variable cast, this beautiful imagery entirely holds your attention.

Directed by Diego Lerman who made the dazzling thriller, Refugiado (2014).

Co-star Barbara Lennie takes your breath away more than once as Mariela, an important addition if somewhat underused, in what could have been a one dimensional loose end, turns into a solid arc thanks to a well written script.

Acting from the younger set cast is not fully explored, characters come in and out with sub-plots fading away to make way for Lucio and his persuasive tactics to clean up the trash from his school.
Juan Minujin won’t win an Oscar for this, but put his dynamic performance alongside Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds (1995).

★★ 1/2

Drama | Argentina, 2022 | 15 | Cinema, Digital | 20th January 2023 (UK) | Sovereign Film Distribution | Dir. Diego Lerman | Juan Minujin, Renata Lerman, Alfredo Castro, Barbara Lennie

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