Verdict: LESSON PLANS deftly utilizes an authentic setting in the world of education and both uncovers and emphasizes the humanity of these individuals in the teaching profession.
A neurotic English teacher who is used to structure and rigid organization in her classroom has to face her worst nightmare: pairing up with a much more laid back special education teacher for team teaching for the entire school year in this charming love story.
LESSON PLANS is an insightful look into the world of public school teaching, providing an authentic backdrop for this romance to unfold. The high school where protagonist Maureen Owens teaches is credibly emblematic of what educators face on a daily basis: it’s filled with cliques among the faculty, standards to which she has to adhere, supervisor observations to which she’s subject, and classrooms of teenage students who range from obedient to troublemaking. Just as the setting has vibrant qualities, Maureen herself also has distinctly carved-out traits as a realistically lovable control freak who steadfastly sticks to routine: always ordering the same food everywhere she eats, running her classroom in her stringent manner, and shying away from physical contact and social settings.
The dynamic that Pepe creates between Maureen and her co-instructor, James Frangi is engaging, as the two of them, with their contrasting teaching styles and personalities, inevitably butt heads at first. Though the direction of their relationship seems predictable, the way in which their frosty professional relationship starts to thaw out for a more fiery romantic one is both surprising and satisfying. Having the school environment serve as the foundation upon which they build their burgeoning connection leads to clever moments. For example, the lesson plans that Maureen and James draw up around literary texts FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON, FENCES, and ROMEO AND JULIET give way to creative parallelism, especially in one finely wrought scene where James starts off a discussion for FENCES with a Robert Frost quote that hits close to home for Maureen.
Following Maureen and James as they let down their metaphoric fences around each other is at first an enticing journey, but as they start to meet each other’s families and their darker backstories are revealed, the story seems to take a sudden turn, focusing far less on their time in the classroom and too heavily on their rough pasts.
LESSON PLANS deftly utilizes an authentic setting in the world of education and both uncovers and emphasizes the humanity of these individuals in the teaching profession.