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‘Stealing School’ review: Courtroom drama about more than guilt or innocence

More than it sounds like.

Stealing School is about a university student named April (Celine Tsai) who has been accused of plagiarism. In order to prove her innocence, she must take her case before an academic tribunal. But can she convince the two faculty members and student that comprise the jury that she did nothing wrong?

The premise sounds like it is straight out of an after school special. It is a courtroom drama that will also teach about right and wrong. Stealing School has a deep enough plot to come off as more than just a dumbed down life lesson, however. The twisting film takes on academia and prejudice in a well written story.

Stealing School relies on the interactions between its characters.  This is common in these types of stories. The script must keep the audience guessing in order to keep things interesting. Director Li Dong does this well. This story remains engaging in no small part thanks to the strong performances.

The movie does make some missteps along the way. The jokes do not always land well, for instance. The film is relatively short, but there is also a lot to follow. Along with the main mystery, each person seems to have a personal agenda. Some of these stories end up getting lost in the shuffle.

Stealing School is at its best when it focuses on institutional racism and the oddities of research papers. The script tackles these issues with confidence. The film lives in ambiguity and weaves a tale that may seem simple, but goes beyond guilt and innocence.

Stealing School comes out on February 26

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