“The Lesson” is like a well-crafted book adaptation that knows when to progress the story and when to give its audience time to reflect, theorize, and then press on.

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General Information

Director(s) Alice Troughton
Screenplay By Alex MacKeith
Based On N/A
Date Released (In Theaters) July 7, 2023
Genre(s) Drama, Mystery
Film Length 1 Hour 42 Minutes
Content Rating Rated R
Noted Characters and Cast
Liam Daryl McCormack
J.M. Sinclair Richard E. Grant
Helene Julie Delpy
Bertie Stephen McMillan
Ellis Crispin Letts

What Is “The Lesson” Rated And Why?

“The Lesson” is Rated R for:

  • Dialog: Some cursing
  • Violence: Attempted murder
  • Sexual Content: mild nudity (male backside) and seeing oral performed on Helene
  • Miscellaneous: Smoking, drinking, and topic of suicide

Film Summary

This content contains pertinent spoilers. Also, images and text in this post may contain affiliate links. If a purchase is made from those sites, we may earn money or products from the company.

Liam, a highly educated young man who tutors as he finishes his first novel “Tower 24,” finds his latest assignment to be in the household of J.M. Sinclair. At one time, Sinclair was a literary sensation, but between a 5-year absence and it being nearly two years since his eldest son committed suicide, many thought he had retired. This isn’t true; he is working on a novel, “Rose Tree,” but that isn’t why Liam is at his house.

The reason Liam is at his house is because Helene, J.M’s wife, wants her younger son, Bertie, to get into Oxford, and Liam comes highly recommended. But, as time wears on, Liam’s position in the house evolves – sometimes by his own doing and curiosity, but also due to the desires of others.

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.


Liam is accomplished academically and works with an agency where he often tutors the children of the upper class so they can get into universities like Oxford while he works on his long-gestating novel, “Tower 24.”

J.M. Sinclair

At one time an acclaimed author, it seems Sinclair has come to the point where he has run out of things to say. But, as he makes clear many times over, he isn’t against borrowing or stealing the work of others as a means to get the job done.


Helene is an art curator who, after the death of her eldest, put her life on pause to care for and be there for her youngest son, unlike how she was for her oldest.


Bertie is someone trying to get into Oxford and likely doesn’t need Liam’s help beyond regaining the confidence that J.M. has worked his entire life to strip away.


Ellis is the butler of the Sinclair household.


Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)Recommended

Notable Performances or Moments

How It Uses Beats To Give You Time To Ponder & Question

Often, when the focus becomes looking at the scenery, peering at how someone’s home is supposed to represent them, or we watch a mundane act like seeing Liam swimming, it can feel like filler. However, with “The Lesson,” each beat, each moment that slows things down seems made to give you time to process the development or reveal of a relationship.

Why is Helene so strange towards her husband and has no issue with Liam watching her and her husband have sex? Is there some weird power dynamic thing where J.M. needs to seem dominant around company? The official story is Felix, J.M. and Helene’s eldest, killed himself, but is that true?

In giving you space to think about these topics, you can see there is no intention to overwhelm you but rather treat this film like a book. Hence it has three parts, a prologue, and an epilogue, with you sometimes wishing you could rewind to double-check something.


How It Evolves Into A Fascinating Mystery With Immensely Complicated, Yet Sometimes Subtle, Relationships

Originally, you are led to believe the idea here is that Liam is going to tutor Bertie and slowly build a rapport with J.M. That does happen, but Helene isn’t to be discounted, nor is Ellis – the butler. As Helene builds her own relationship with Liam, you are pushed to wonder about the secrets of J.M.’s estate.

It is noted they pay for isolation for a reason and are fine with the caveat of inconsistent electricity. As the film goes on, you can see J.M. is an insufferable narcissist and how that has worn down on everyone, as he pushes them away with cruel comments, with even Felix used for fodder, while also trying to bring them back in, thus causing an abusive cycle.

So as Liam learns the truth about J.M., Helene reveals part of her reason for hiring Liam, and then you are pushed to wonder if Ellis is a major player or knows nothing at all? This becomes a mystery that doesn’t do as “Knives Out” or many others, which seek to be over the top, excessively long, or potentially complicated, but rather leave you to truly ponder, want to examine interactions yourself, and use the aforementioned beats to think of theories and cross your fingers you are right.


If you like this movie, we recommend:

  1. The Wife

Check out our movies page for our latest movie reviews and recommendations.


Why Did It Take J.M. Sinclair 5 Years To Finish His Book?

Because he stole the book from Felix’s computer and struggled for at least a year to write an ending because Felix’s book was unfinished.

Why Did Helene Hire Liam?

She hoped he could help reveal the truth about Mr. Sinclair’s book, later wanting him to write a better ending and ultimately free her from her husband.

What Led To Felix’s Suicide?

A combination of Felix’s mental health issues and his father’s verbal abuse.

Movie Poster - The Lesson (2023)
The Lesson (2023) – Movie Review and Summary (with Spoilers)
“The Lesson” presents a skillful use of pacing that allows the mystery of the Sinclair household to unfurl in such a way that you are given enough time to theorize, learn of new developments, and be more than content when nearly all is revealed.
How It Uses Beats To Give You Time To Ponder & Question
How It Evolves Into A Fascinating Mystery With Immensely Complicated, Yet Sometimes Subtle, Relationships
Community Rating0 Votes
How It Uses Beats To Give You Time To Ponder & Question
How It Evolves Into A Fascinating Mystery With Immensely Complicated, Yet Sometimes Subtle, Relationships

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