'Chalk' Review: Teaching Ain't Easy
Chalk begins with a title card that indicates that over fifty percent of teachers quit after their first year. After years of being in school and watching my teachers, and being a teacher myself, this felt like an honest and genuine statistic. With this in mind, Chalk seems like an honest and faithful mockumentary. It deals with a group of teachers at a high school, veteran and new, all with their personal problems and challenges with their students.
Right off the bat, this movie takes great advantage of the mockumentary format, giving a lot of fluidity to the filmmaking and the jokes. It quickly feels as if we are seeing the real deal. The performances are fantastic, although there are a lot of fresh faces in here, it’s kind of upsetting that then years after its release a lot of these actors don’t seem to have found more work outside of this film. That’s a shame because the whole cast belongs in the same league of actors who’ve worked on shows like Arrested Development or The Office. A lot of them deserve to work in more movies or TV shows.
In a lot of other mockumentaries I’ve reviewed for this month, I’ve been critical of the gratuity of scenes that don’t do anything but seemingly to just pad out the run time. Fortunately, Chalk avoids this problem. Each scene is there to move the story, reveal characters or to get a good laugh, if not to accomplish all three. But what’s more, is that the film feels so truthful about the teaching experience, skewing it for laughs but never without sincerity. Some have said that perhaps the movie is too harsh, too cynical. I don’t entirely disagree, but often people don’t realize how thankless this profession can be. This film reveals all that from a satirical angle, but like all good satire it hurts and makes you laugh because it’s true. It’s a situation that does not feel limited to the United States but that I’m sure teachers from all over the world can find as relatable to them.
The movie almost never breaks the mockumentary style, save for one scene where it goes into a romantic fantasy. It’s a funny bit, but an abrupt pause in what had been up until then a consistent, realistic and well-done documentary aesthetic. Other than that, the movie is impeccably well directed. Seriously, where is everyone who was involved in the making of this film?
I have nothing but good things to say about Chalk. As a comedy, it succeeds in spades. But even more so, it succeeds in being truthful. Movies like this always work when they put us in someone else’s shoes; for 90 minutes we are with those teachers, and although they’re all fictional, we feel as if we’ve come to know them and love them, flaws and all. Perhaps the movie would’ve benefited from the students’ perspective. Should they ever make a sequel, maybe that’s what it should be.