With his Elvis Presley bobblehead and half completed Rubik’s Cube, Kevin McArevey sets out to enrich the lives of the Belfast youth through his position as headmaster at the Holy Cross Boys Academy. Young Plato truly captures the passion behind McArevey’s decision to educate elementary students on basic philosophy.
In an environment where, for decades, the best solution to a problem was using one’s fists, the educator’s messages of controlling emotions and actively participating with their thoughts speaks volumes to McArevey’s dedication.
Unfortunately, directors Neasa Ní Chianáín (School Life) and Declan McGrath burn through their thematic material as fast as The King did during his ’68 special. At roughly the 35 minute mark, Young Plato falls into a pattern of McArevey teaching children a philosophical lesson, then having those same kids act out against the message, only for the headmaster to reteach it to them. While this repetition does reduces the film’s impact, Young Plato is still a philosophically inspiring tale about the power of the mind over brawns.
The Silver Lining
The use of archival footage of The Troubles, a 30 year Irish civil war, enriches McArevey and Young Plato‘s mission. The footage demonstrates the tension-fueled environment of Belfast that is still present today and why it’s so essential for McArevey to teach messages of unity, inclusion, and nonviolence. It’s this use of archival material that proves how great a double feature of Young Plato and Kenneth Branagh’s period piece Belfast.
Young Plato is a part of DOC NYC’s (Nov 10-28th) 2021 lineup. Click here to learn more about how you can purchase a ticket for this title (both for in-person and digital screenings).