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In what is a gripping tale, School Days delivers the saddest reality check on the bullying many boarding students in secondary schools go through, especially during their first year. In 75 minutes, the team behind this brilliance delivered a compelling story that ignites past traumas to victims and possibly a guilt trip to bullies.
However, even while writing this review, I cannot help but feel guilty that we are close to a year late in appreciating the work that was done on School Days. Officially premiered in May 2023, it did not garner much response until it was uploaded on YouTube on January 2nd, 2024. Within 11 days, it has been able to amass 881 thousand views and counting and has gotten positive reviews on various social media platforms.
The opening act is very relatable; it is nostalgic because it will remind you of the talk with your parents right before the first term of secondary school. The sit down of Mphatso, the protagonist, with the mother as she shares her advice on conducting himself at school. Perhaps the perfect reminder to every viewer on the journey they have once been on.
By the third act, it is obvious that we are in it for dark humor. We are introduced to a math teacher who punishes his students by slapping them with a duster and painting their faces white. A vivid reminder that some of the biggest bullies in a lot of schools are sometimes teachers. However, that is not the case in School Days, because just as quickly as the duster slaps happen, we learn that the math teacher is a student, Chaksy played by Kendall Kamwendo who is also a credited writer and producer of the movie, impersonating a teacher. An introduction to the bullying about to unfold.
We are quickly introduced to the main antagonist of School Days, Phwedo, in what I found to be a crazy scene. He meets new form one students, and in an intimidating voice asks one of them why he came in an expensive car. The camera slowly turns to the student being talked to, and he is a disabled fellow who is in a wheelchair. This scene will make you question your possibility of entering heaven due to its dark humor.
Mphatso quickly becomes friends with a girl named Leticia, who is heavily being pursued by a guy named Richie. During a prep night, Mphatso and Leticia almost kiss before turning their heads to the plate of rice on the desk. Like clockwork, Chaksy shows up and takes the food away from them, almost like he has a sixth sense or smell for good food.
After that, we are shown the different kinds of bullying that students encounter like being told to use a smelly shoe as a phone, being given soap with limited water to wash their bodies, and many more. Perhaps the saddest scene was when Phwedo pushed down the disabled boy and got on the wheelchair himself while taunting him to push the chair. A great reminder that bullies will see no disability.
In the end, we are saddened by Mphatso’s sudden passing right after he had just won the best essay award. We learn that his passing came from the hands of Richie due to an argument about Leticia. His death causes the passing of his mother in the village, while students and teachers get arrested for their knowledge of the bullying and strike.
My Thoughts on School Days
As I earlier mentioned, the movie does a good job of reminding people of their past school days, while also painting a vivid picture of what many kids might be facing in different schools at the current date. The main story of the movie is straightforward, easy to consume, and with some good humor.
If I was to rate it, I would give it a 4.5 out of 5.
However, I still felt like a few areas were lacking. Areas anyone can turn a blind eye to, but still worth mentioning. Some of them were:
- While the overall movie was great, I could not help but feel like the script was rushed. At the beginning of the movie, the team did a good job of laying the foundation, but as we got to the middle of the movie, some scenes felt rushed. They felt like fillers that were quickly considered.
- Due to the scenes feeling rushed, I also felt like some characters were underdeveloped. We were briefly introduced to a teacher-student relationship between Ben and Agnes. Then quickly learned of Agnes’ pregnancy. The only thing we learned after was Ben’s arrest at the very end, with not much context. I wished they had developed this story more as a parallel because it was a powerful story to put light on. So many young girls in schools are preyed on by their teachers and felt it would have cemented the story more.
- Other characters I felt were underutilized were the female bullies. When School Days began, there was some promise to their characters after stealing a prayer meeting’s offerings. After that, it felt like they were just dragged along, and even after they decided to keep Ben’s money to themselves without sharing it with the boys felt weird. I felt like the writers did not really know what to do with their characters and just dragged them along.
Regardless, I still give the writers huge props on relatability. Not only on the bullying, some scenes just made sense:
- Watching Phwedo ask a kid to ask out a girl on his behalf is something that a lot of people (girls) have experienced before. During school days, we would see that a lot, and often the messenger was crucified for taking back the wrong answer.
- Richie is a guy that a lot of girls have experienced before, except the murder, maybe. As a female, I could feel Leticia’s annoyance and each eye roll she gave him. The kind of guys that feel ownership of you and fight others they feel threatened by.
- The negligence of the headteacher to the bullying even after being notified is exactly what happens in many schools.
- The death in School Days reminded me of a death that happened at Blantyre Girls, where a young girl died of suffocation after being locked in a suitcase.
- Perhaps another aspect I loved was how they showed the alcohol and drug abuse that happens in a lot of secondary schools. Further shows that a lot of communities are complacent about the problem, by selling alcohol and drugs to students instead of shunning them.
- While some have criticized the team for choosing an older cast to play teenage boys, I found a brilliance to it. Not only was the cast impeccable in their roles, but their acting felt natural. Somehow, I feel using a younger cast to appeal to the ages and not the story would have killed a great movie. And again, Hollywood does cast 40-year-olds to play high school kids all the time.
One thing I enjoyed was the discourse that took place on Twitter. Seeing people gate keep bullying due to the kind of school one has gone through is insane. The extent of the bullying might be different, regardless, it is all still bullying that can leave trauma to those victimized by it.
I can only hope that the right people see the power of this movie and use it in different schools to discourage bullying. This must happen.
A shame it is that the School Days did not make much money during the 2023 run and premieres. A sad reality that a lot of our talent remains buried due to inadequate resources to market their work. However, with the rise in internet usage, it is hoped that this will be turned.
Watch School Days here and share with me your thoughts.