The way Keating gets the boys to love poetry is brilliant. The Carpe Diem scene is profound. The ending is tragic. The whole is poignant.
Is Keating in hindsight responsible for the tragedy? Some have argued so and rejected the movie for that reason. I would not reject the film for that reason, even if I agreed with its premise. It’s got too much good stuff and one hard lesson it might not know it’s teaching. It’s a lesson we need to get.
The lesson is the implications of the incompleteness of Keating’s worldview. He comes across as a kind of proto-Sixties bohemian libertarian. He is all about resisting bad assumptions and oppressive authority, and that is good. But he offers no balance about how to identify rightful authority and why we should respect and obey it. As a consequence, there is nothing about what to do when that respect and obedience come into conflict with other values we rightly hold. I would have to say that while Keating was not directly responsible for the suicide (he gave the boy many good gifts and is not to blame for what he did with them), this imbalance was a contributing factor. A more complete (that is, more fully biblical) world view in his mentor’s teaching and example might have given the student a stronger ability to handle the conflicted situation he found himself in. It’s a lesson I draw from the film, probably not one it set out to teach.
One thing is certain: From now on, the ending will be even harder to watch.
For more commentary by Dr. Williams, check out his books with Lantern Hollow Press! Inklings of Reality, Stars Through the Clouds, and Reflections from Plato’s Cave. To order, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/