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Review: My Old School is an ethics lesson

Imagine how strange it would be to go back to high school as an adult. Being so much older than your fellow students would surely give you an advantage in some ways, what with all that life experience and accumulated knowledge.

In 1993, a 32 year old man in Scotland did just that. He enrolled at his old high school 16 years after leaving it, though this time he did it under an assumed name, and presented to be a teenager. The shocking thing about the story is that none of his teachers recognised him or twigged that he was really twice as old as his fellow students. 

In the documentary film My Old School, this intriguing story is vividly retold by the people who were there including Brian MacKinnon, the interloper himself, better known by his assumed name Brandon Lee. 

While MacKinnon agreed to an interview with the documentary team he insisted that only his voice be recorded, not his face. This of course created quite a dilemma for the production, so they cleverly got round this by getting actor Alan Cumming to lip sync on camera to MacKinnon’s voice. 

The documentary also consists of a series of interviews with key staff and pupils who remembered ‘Brandon Lee’, and together with MacKinnon they tell an engaging history of the events as they remember them. Their observations are at times very funny, and are overlaid with real footage and animation of events. 

What emerges is an intriguing yet somewhat disturbing tale of a clever man who was also a serial liar. Obsessed with getting into medical school, he seemed oblivious to the danger of the fictitious world he was creating around him. Yet ‘Lee’ proved to be a good and loyal friend to some.

The question that comes out of this story is – did he do anything wrong? Legally, charges were never laid, and it seems he didnt actually break the law, but morally, that is another matter.

As one of his now older fellow students put it “he should be in jail.. why? Well I guess he committed no crime, but he lied.”

He breached the trust of everyone around him, and it is hard to work out exactly what the truth of this entire episode ultimately is, but what comes out strongly in this documentary is a sense of sadness about MacKinnon himself. He lies and obsession ultimately prevented him from achieving success in life.

My Old School is worth watching because it will make you questions your ethics. 

In cinemas now. 

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