A good old-fashioned heartwarmer about a teacher and a dysfunctional teen, Clockwork Mice throws out the kitchen sink to embrace its humanist theme with cinematic verve. Pic is top-lined by convinced playing from Ian Hart as the selfless teach, and mounted in infectious feel-good style.
Setting is a fictional school for maladjusted children somewhere in rural England. Idealistic new teacher Steve (Hart) arrives and immediately sets the pulse of colleague Polly (Catherine Russell) racing. Steve’s first meeting with problem pupil Conrad (Ruaidhri Conroy) is less successful: the expressionless 14-year-old trashes the classroom when forbidden to play basketball. Finally, they find common ground in cross-country running, and enough other kids join up for Steve to form a club.
There’s almost nothing new about Rod Woodruff’s script, which glues shavings from Dead Poet’s Society and Chariots of Fire to studies of loners like Kes and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. Where director Vadim Jean and producer Paul Brooks score is in gussying up wafer-thin material and giving it a positive spin, rather than settling for a more familiar slice of downbeat British realism.