This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
mollie’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
"Thank you boys. Thank you."
Oh, what to say about this film. I first watched this back in high school when I was fourteen or fifteen, and though it truly resonated with me then, I have never felt closer to this movie than I do now at twenty years old. As someone who is currently studying English Lit in college, I am constantly asked "What are you going to do with that?" or "How are you gonna make money with that degree?" My answer is always the same: "I don't know." And it's true, I don't! These kinds of questions tend to get under your skin and, as I'm sure anyone who studies the humanities can relate, make you question yourself. Why study poetry? Why study literature? Why study film? So on and so forth. Well, for me, these questions are exactly what this film tackles.
Through Mr. Keating and the Dead Poets, we all get to see the value and importance of the humanities and of art; through poetry, these boys get to find their voices, their individuality. As Keating puts it, we study poetry and art because they are what make us human, they are what make us feel, they are what connect us to one another. Each of the Dead Poets, even Cameron, are changed by Keating's teaching and the poetry they read. They are told that they can have their own voices and their own lives outside of what is expected of them. And it almost works out; they almost are able to live deliberately.
Neil's death is not tragic just because, well, he dies, but because he feels he has no other choice. It is either get trapped in a life he doesn't want to live or end it before the choice to do what he wants is unwillfully taken from him. Neil, perhaps more so than any of the other characters, fully embraced the tradition of carpe diem; he saw what he wanted and went for it. And he was good! He was really good! However, his life was not his choice; it was laid out for him by his father and there was no place for acting or the arts, so he took what he thought was the only way out. And it hurts, not for only the viewer, but for all those who loved him. No person should ever feel trapped like Neil did; he deserved to live the life he wanted to live.
In my eyes, that is what the movie portrays. Art give people a chance to connect--I can go and read a poem from the sixteenth century and feel a human connection with the person who wrote it that has been long dead. There is a reason why we tell stories, no matter the medium; art offers us a way to feel human, and that should not be scoffed at. I may not know what I'll do with my English degree, but I do know that I love what I am studying; what matters more than that?
Okay, time to stop gushing about this movie. There's so much to say about this film and its relationship to the poetic tradition of carpe diem, but I'll save that for another time. If you read this far, thank you for putting up with my rambling. I love this film more than I can say. Neil Perry best boy.