‘The School for Good and Evil’ gives a fresh look at magical world creation

Written By Diana Navarrete, Staff Writer

To start, let me tell you that I am a film enthusiast, in that I don’t have much knowledge of films, but I love entertaining myself by watching them. What I dislike must be too absurd, or put stupid, offensive, or too melancholy/depressing (we get that from life, no need to dwell on it), satanic, or repetitively vulgar. For some, this is the good stuff, but not for me. I enjoy movies that are entertaining, colorful, and with attention to detail and profound meaning. In my opinion, and as you will discover from this review, I believe that this movie meets all. 

Be advised that I might have overlooked the claims that this Netflix Original released on the platform on October 19 is a disastrous Harry Potter rip-off, or consists of poor characterization, according to some. 

It is important to note that this film received anticipation from fans of the original international book series under the same title by Soman Chainani, who playfully foresaw it becoming a movie in 2020, according to the independent newspaper, The Daily Iowan. 

Speaking for myself, I enjoy being entertained and finding profound meaning. I watched this film with my family, and I must say that we (in being my mother and I) analyzed it from a religious perspective of what it means to be good and how it is portrayed ironically in the film. We also emphasized that there are always two sides to every story and the confusion and complexity of what it means to be human, as touched upon in the film, which was very interesting. 

Coining into the title of both the book and the movie, it is the iconic plot of good vs. evil and heroes vs. villains. Only the focus is on youth and training them in their “corresponding” schools to fulfill their purpose, whether it is to be good (the “Evers”) or evil (the “Nevers”). The school was created by twin brothers Rhian and Rafal, solely played by British actor Kit Young, maintaining the balance between good and evil. 

One day, Rafal (the evil one) is unsatisfied with good winning and uses blood magic to try to kill his twin brother Rhian (the good one). In the battle to the death, Rhian defeats Rafal by throwing him off a cliff and is presumed dead, leaving Rhian alone to run the school with the headmistresses. Lady Lesso from the School of Evil, played by actress Charlize Theron, and Clarissa Dovey (from the School of Good, played by the American actress Kerry Washington. 

Two unlikely best friends and female protagonists, Sophie (played by Sophia Anne Caruso) and Agatha (played by Sofia Wylie), stand up for each other and live different lives in the small village of Gavaldon. Both are unhappy, but Agatha strives to protect her single mother and Sophie, while Sophie is obsessed with fairytales and wishes to leave the town. 

Agatha is called ugly by the townsfolk (which is funny considering she is not ugly in real life, and the movie-they didn’t even try, other than arguably the name), and both she and her mother are called witches. Sophie is supposed to be a kind and beautiful girl who dreams of being a princess. Both are readers and come across the tale of the School of Good and Evil in a bookstore. Despite Sophie’s promise to ease the desperation of Agatha to leave her alone against the hatred of the townsfolk, she clings to her desire to be a princess by attending the fictional School of Good despite the bookstore owner’s warning. 

To cut things short and not give too much away, Sophie ends up in the School of Evil while Agatha is in the School for Good. Sophie believes it to be a mistake and spends the whole time fighting to be the princess she desires to be. While Agatha only wants to go home and protect her best friend from evil. I loved the switch in roles and the portrayal of a Black woman being the hero instead of the typical white hero, both independent and impactful feminine characters and actors.

Look for the attention to detail in the elaborate costumes and the special effects that make this two-and-a-half-hour film a magical adventure with true friendship and love ending with a plot twist. It could be you saw it coming and expected the whole storyline of the movie, but don’t lie in that it was even a little bit enjoyable. 

What I ask you to take from this film is to think about how one’s actions contradict what we tend to believe of ourselves, for being good is not what we think but reflected by what we do without self-interest and mend our mistakes (for, as humans, we are imperfect). I know it is deep philosophical stuff.