Bad Education (La Mala Educación) is a film by Pedro Almodóvar, Spanish writer and director. It stars Gael García Bernal in a gender bending performance. He shines as characters Juan, Àngel, and as Zahara, a transgender candidate.
This film depicts the sexual abuse of young boys by priests in an all male school, thankfully, not in a graphic manner. The film is rated NC-17, for a scene of explicit sexual content, the first to receive that rating that I have ever reviewed here. It was released in 2004 with English subtitles. There are other scenes later in the film of gay sex that are somewhat explicit.
Bad Education shows the evolution of Ignacio who is unfortunately the prize pupil of Father Padre Manolo (Daniel Giménez Cacho) who is a sex offender. Ignacio and another young student Enrique grow to care for each other, and when Padre Monolo realizes this, he sends Enrique away from the school in a jealous fit, wanting Ignacio only for himself.
It is a sordid world at this all boys school where the priests abuse the boys at will and wreck each of their lives. We come to know the story onscreen when Àngel/Juan visits the adult Enrique (Fele Martínez) who is now a filmmaker, and pitches to him a screenplay he has written called The Visit. Almodóvar is inventive in the way he travels to and from the past through the evolving screenplay of the story unfolding at a Catholic boys school, and the present reality of Enrique and Juan who have met and are creating the film.
Also in the film in a minor role as Paco/Paquita is Javier Cámara who was later in Talk to Her and Living is Easy with Eyes Closed. Gael García Bernal delivers an incredible performance acting as transgender Zahara. He is so authentic, and he really carries the film.
Almodóvar breaks all the rules, and I am always amazed at his creative talents to tell a story in a unique manner. This film is not for everyone obviously. If you will be upset by a true to life tale of the molestation of young boys by priests, don’t watch. If you are offended by the thought of gay male sex, don’t watch. If you want to watch really good acting, and are not afraid of these subjects, tune in.
It really is heartbreaking to think that the sexual abuse of children still occurs at the hands of the clergy, where it is not only an abuse of the child, but also a spiritual abuse due to the perceived authority of the priest. This film makes clear how lives are ruined due to the Church not doing enough to prevent it or prosecute those who are sex offenders. An excellent film I reviewed here is Spotlight, which is about the journalists in Boston who discovered the cover up by the Catholic Church of abuse that was occurring. It’s a film you should see for the fine acting and story.