From documentarian, Oscar Nominee and AFI Award Winner Bob Connolly and co-directed by Sophie Raymond, Mrs. Carey’s Concert is a behind-the-scenes look at music teacher Karen Carey as she prepares her high school students for a concert at the Sydney Opera House. Believing in the transformative power of great music, Mrs. Carey insists upon a classical repertoire, sets a dauntingly high performance level and requires the participation of all the girls in the school. But not everyone shares her passion. A film about talent, courage, potential, and making beautiful music together.
‘Mrs. Carey’s Concert’ has a challenging task before it, following music teacher Karen Carey as she prepares for her school’s performance at the Sydney Opera House, the film follows the broad preparations while taking a personal interest in a few key students conveying their stories more intimately than the wider class. The difficulty is with attempting to articulate to the audience the sheer dedication, discipline, and motivation required to deliver the performance that Karen Carey is building towards by the end of the film.
With a running time of 90 mins, while attempting to cover a relatively long period of time in a high level of detail the film is very selective with the material that is included. The ideas of the time commitment required from the students, and the amount of work put in by both students and teachers, is achieved with mixed success as the documentary makes quite clear how demanding the rehearsals are, however there is a sense of being told this, as opposed to be shown this through the documentary itself.
In saying that however, the talent and performances captured throughout are impressive, the film gives an insight into the pressure various students are performing under, as well as the sheer passion and aspiration of the teachers and specifically Karen Carey herself as they seek to tap into every last piece of talent and potential within the students at the school.
The background of some of the students is explored slightly which provides a more rounded picture to their situation, however for the most part this is left fairly shallow with a focus on covering rehearsals and discussions regarding the performance in great detail. Where this aspect of the film does succeed however is where some of the progression of the students does come to light as they move towards positions of more responsibility with an acceptance and a dedication to the music.
The documentary includes some natural humour, and conflict as Karen Carey is forced to address some of the less cooperative students in the class, but the film also articulates how some of the students attempt to manage the very high demands placed upon them, as their instructors strive for the best possible performance.
With a predictable but suitable climax covering the final performance the audience is able to see the outcome of hectic schedules, and never ending rehearsals, that have been adhered to over the previous 18 months. The documentary comprehensively covers the students delivering the works of classical composers including some of the schools own composer’s works.
Mrs Carey’s Concert is a documentary film aimed at audiences with an interest in music instruction, the encouragement of talented students, and the work that goes into such a talented school production. This is a difficult film to rate, as no doubt those with an interest in the topic will find much to enjoy, however this is definitely one aimed towards those who already have a passion or an interest in the content.
I’m giving this 3 out of 5 stars, the film is released in cinemas on Thursday 28 April.