Review: Dead Poets Society (1989)

Dead Poets Society Poster

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”
– John Keating

Welton Academy For Boys exists in New England in the 1950’s. Students flocks from around the country to attend the prestigious school that is to give them the life skills they need to go on to Ivy League schools and become wildly successful men in life. A new school year begins, and Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) is Neil Perry’s (Robert Sean Leonard) roommate. The two become close, and Todd meets Neil’s friends Charlie Dalton (Gale Hansen), Richard Cameron (Dylan Kussman), Knox Overstreet (Josh Charles), Steven Meeks (Allelon Ruggiero) and Gerard Pitts (James Waterston).

Dead Poets Society
“I always thought the idea of education was to learn to think for yourself.” – John Keating

They boys all seem to be living someone else’s dream. Todd is in his older brother’s looming shadow, Neil striving to be exactly what his father, Mr Perry (Kurtwood Smith) wishes him to be, no matter what he wants. Knox is expected by his father to study law and become successful, and Charlie is mostly alright what with coming from a wealthy background. Strict disciplinarian Headmaster Nolan (Norman Lloyd) introduces the new English teacher, John Keating (Robin Williams) to the school. The first lesson the boys encounter with their latest teacher is incredibly interesting, and they are starting to look at English and poetry in a whole new light.

The Dead Poets Society Meeting
A Dead Poets gathering

After some research is done, the group finds that John Keating was a part of the Dead Poets Society. They question him about it, and he explains it as a gathering of friends to read poetry from the greats or that they themselves have written, to share and discuss beauty. Soon the boys decide that they are in for this idea, and start their own highly illegal Dead Poets Society. Mr Keating is hammering free thinking into his students, the notion of living for the day as well as doing what it is that you want in life, no matter what the cost, and no matter if you are not supported. Obviously the young and impressionable seventeen-year-olds take it to heart, and soon Neil is defying his father’s strictest wishes to leave everything and keep his head down to study and go to medical school in favour of testing his dream for acting. Knox falls in love with Chris Noel (Alexandra Powers), endangering his opportunity of making ties with the Danburry family seeing as Christine is engaged to Chet Danburry (Colin Irving).

“For the first time in my whole life, I know what I wanna do! And for the first time, I’m gonna do it! Whether my father wants me to or not! Carpe diem!” – Neil

Quickly things start to turn when Mr Perry gets wind of Neil’s acting dreams, and Neil confides in Professor Keating. Charlie is ever-cocky and goes out on a whim to think outside the box, to be his own individual. Todd is still stuggling with his shyness, but Professor Keating is helping him out of his box. Knox is head-over-heels and will think no further than Chris. The school is getting antsy with Professor Keating’s teaching techniques as they feel that seventeen-year-old students have no business being free thinkers. Classes are fun, but what will happen if these boys truly start applying the things that they are learning from their fearless Captain? Are these boys ready to be free, to be different, to “seize the day”, to live their lives and bear the consequences of their decisions? Are they ready to see and accept beauty in everything they see, and enjoy their lives for everything that it is, and not make it all about a career? Will the liberal and unorthodox teaching methods of Professor Keating survive in a school

Dead Poets Society earns an 8/10. It was a good movie, both for its time and now. Truly inspiring, and I loved it. I love the English language, and I love beautiful words, especially when strung together in lavish sentences. This movie provided this, this movie showed how important thinking for yourself was and finding inspiration in so many thing. Teachers should learn from Keating, but what made him special is that he came from an era where conservatism was key, and thinking even just a little out of the box was completely frowned upon. It was terribly sad to see how some people just cannot bear the brunt of their actions, and that someone else is to pay the cost, and that cost does not only influence the blamed party, but all the lives that person touched. I reckon this was a good movie, and it was fun and humorous for me in a very smart manner. I liked how Robert Sean Leonard was supposed to study medical, and goes on to be a doctor in House, M.D. I don’t know how many people are out there that have not watched this movie, but it is a lovely story. I wish this had been a set story for me in English in high school, as it teaches the joy of an educated and varying vocabulary. What I liked about this movie is the way it spoke out against letting someone else dictate your life to you, as well as the importance of fostering good relationships with the people around you. They really are so important for your own development.

6 thoughts on “Review: Dead Poets Society (1989)

    1. Thank Ruth! It was touching and inspiring! I must apologize, been a little scant everywhere lately, started a new job, so been reading and liking but not interacting as much as I would like to!


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