In the verdant village of Kells, Ireland, there's an antidote to the dark times we live in—a worn and weathered boarding school with a special magic. At the heart of the school is a bemused elderly couple, John and Amanda Leyden, who have taught with equal parts seriousness and silliness for more than 40 years. The delight of In Loco Parentis is watching the pair undertake beloved pedagogical rituals, from performing the writings of great authors to coaching a fledgling rock band, like donning a favorite sweater.
The couple’s kindness and inventiveness usher elementary school–age children, hailing from around the world, through patches of loneliness and angst. Although the Leydens pretend to dread loud, screaming kids, the truth is they cannot go a day without them. But even the most beautiful traditions wane. As John and Amanda ponder retirement, unapologetically chain-smoking in their ivy-covered cottage, the film poses a quietly profound question: Will their intimate and caring cultivation of future generations live on, or will it vanish like so many community-centered practices?