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386. Making The Grade; movie review

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Title : 386. Making The Grade; movie review
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Cert TBA
85 mins
BBFC advice: TBA

When I was nine years old, I took up playing the trumpet. When I was 13 or 14, I gave it up.
Why? I was rubbish and just didn't have the desire to spend hours and hours to make myself any better.
It might have been different if music had been part of my home life but my dad refused to allow mum's childhood piano in the house when they were married.
Clearly, she couldn't have gone to the barricades over his stance and, therefore, by the time I came around it was a fading memory.
As it happens, I reckon I would have been better at the piano than I was at trumpet but the only evidence to back up my argument would have been my quality finger work on the Subbuteo pitch.
Ken Wardrop's Making The Grade shows that rather more is required - namely, rhythm, passion and dedication.
It is set in Ireland where 30,000 people take piano exams, ranging from grade one to eight, every year (I reached Grade 4 in trumpet).
The documentary alights upon two pupils and their respective teachers for each of the classes.
The problem is that each case study is only allocated just five minutes and the documentary does not stray much from that template.
This means that the audience does not get to know the characters well enough and, in any case, does not find out whether they have been successful in their exams.
All of the teachers eulogise about the universal joy of music but the problem with Making The Grade is that it only alights upon students who appear to have wealthy backgrounds.
For example, there is the brilliant young pianist who also plays myriad sports and practises golf in his huge back garden.
The film does not address the subject of the expense of the equipment, the lessons and the exams. It is substantial and, along with the huge investment of time, can be a deterrent.
But this is not a movie which seeks to court controversy or even debate. It is merely a fly on the wall which flutters its wings very briefly.

Reasons to watch: A rare view of the intensity of music learning and teaching
Reasons to avoid: Flips too quickly across its subjects

Laughs: None
Jumps: None
Vomit: None
Nudity:  None
Overall rating: 6/10

Director quote - Ken Wardrop: "You fear that people will think it’s just purely an academic study of how to learn and in my head, it’s pretty much a love story to the relationship between student and teacher.”

The big question - Why is learning to play an instrument so ruddy difficult?

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