Starter for 10, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Mark Gatiss

There are times when I can’t thank the dibidi vendors enough for their collections of film gems that I would not get a hold of if I opted for the mall video shops or waited for them to be shown in cinemas. A short trip to MCS two weekends ago produced a well of hard-to-find titles all saved in just.one.disc at the measly sum of PHP70. One of the titles I found was Starter for 10.

“…you can’t hide in your room forever, feeling sorry for your self. It’s not practical. At some point, you’ve got to get back out there, face yourself, and confront your demons.
“And yes, i’ve made some bad choices, lost my head, let people down–people I cared for. But there still might be time to get something right.
“Ever since I can remember, I want to be clever. Some people are born clever in the same way some people are born beautiful. I’m not one of those people. I’m gonna have to work it, put in the effort, and if I mess it up, I learn from it. Besides, sometimes it’s not about knowing the right answers. Sometimes, it’s about asking the right question.”

Starter for 10 stars one of my new favorite British actors, James McAvoy. It’s another coming-of-age story about a young small-town but very clever teenager who pursues his passion for learning by taking a course in English Literature at Bristol University. Inspired by his father, he cultivates interest in quiz shows and gathers bits and pieces of trivia, sometimes thinking if all the knowledge he collects are useless.

“As Francis Bacon once said, ‘Knowledge is power.’ Which is why I want to know everything. I want to know about Plato and Newton, Tolstoy and Bob Dylan; what the words ‘eclectic’ and ‘peripatetic’ mean. I want to know why people actually like jazz. If I want to know the answers, I have to be in a place where people have a passion for knowledge. I think it’s important; sacred, even.”

While at the university, he meets a couple of eccentric flat-mates, a domineering quiz team captain, an activist Jewish student named Rebecca, and the blond bombshell of his dreams, Alice, who is also a member of his team.

As he attempts to help his friends to win the championship of University Challenge, one of Britain’s longest-running quiz shows, he also falls for the beautiful Alice. On the other hand, Rebecca keeps by his side throughout the turmoil that he goes through with the team, his friends, his mother, and his romantic disappointment, believing that he can actually make a difference. He and Rebecca’s faith are put to the test on the day of the championships. So close to winning the title, he disappoints his team by giving a correct answer even when the question has not yet been asked. The judges decide to kick him out immediately.
Embarrassed, he goes home to stew in his disappointment and eventually discovers that those who seem to have moved on still care for him: his widowed mother who has found a new partner and his best friend who still believes in him and the value of his education. When he returns to the university, he also realizes that his adviser has been waiting for him to turn up and, best of all, Rebecca is waiting for him to ask “the right question”.

The university does not disappoint in nurturing his passion for learning as it supports his quiz team, stirs his zeal for poetry, as well as introduces him to student activism through Rebecca. However, sometimes the best kind of knowledge is not that which is learned within the hallowed walls of the university, but through other people. Those he meets in college teach him the value of loyalty, respect, and forgiveness, and the dangers of falling in love.

“Starter for 10″ is pretty much your cookie-cutter coming-of-age movie. However, it successfully gives life to a quirky set of characters from 1985 amid social discord and identity discovery.