Film Critic Dad Gives Son an Unconventional Education

Jesse Gilmour didn't have an average high school education. When he was 16 years old, the Toronto teenager had bad grades and a self-professed bad attitude. Jesse's father David Gilmour allowed him to drop out of high school on one condition: that he would follow a different kind of syllabus.

"I thought, 'we have got to do something. Movies are the only education that he's going to get that I can actually get down his throat without a jack hammer,'" said David.

David is a former Toronto film critic who decided that his son could learn important life lessons from famous films. Jesse would have to watch at least 3 movies a week, every week, with him. This began the Film Club. Father and son, week after week, sitting with the works of famous directors, such as Federico Fellini, Stanley Kubrick and Francis Ford Coppola. Creating an education by looking for lessons about life.

What lesson did Jesse learn from the 1972 Francis Ford Coppola film "The Godfather"? The value of stillness. "The great screen actors have always understood that absolute stillness attracts the eye, and motion actually deflects attention," said David.

The Gilmours study famous actors, such as Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, whose scenes they watch repeatedly to gain their full value. When asked if the lesson of stillness is something Jesse will take with him in life, David said, "The things that last in the end are the things that come to you if you stayed completely still."

Another film Jesse studied was the famous flop "Ishtar." The movie, starring Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman, encompassed a deeply personal point. "Here is a lovely movie that got a bad rap, and people accepted the bad rap as 'the truth,' the same way they did when [Jesse] dropped out of high school," said David.

David wrote a book titled "The Film Club" that examines the time he spent home schooling his son in this unconventional way. "In a way, sometimes the movies themselves weren't that important," David said. "It was the time that we spent together."

That helps to explain the screening of the 1995 flick "Showgirls" starring Elizabeth Berkley. So, did Jesse trade a high school education for "Showgirls"? He says, "Well, no, but we did watch it one time and had a blast."

Although it certainly wasn't reading, writing and arithmetic, it was a kind of learning. After two years and more than 300 films, Jesse received his high school equivalency and is now applying to film school.

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