Cinema Review: The Kindergarten Teacher

Posted 6 months ago in Cinema Reviews

Director: Sara Colangelo

Talent: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Parker Sevak, Gael Garcia Bernal

Released: 8 February

Lisa, played by Gyllenhaal, is a kindergarten teacher struggling to find her inner artist. Outside of her job she goes to poetry classes run by Bernal’s character. Her poems, much like everyone else’s in the class, are middling and average at best. Despondent with her own weak efforts, she’s determined to nurture (or perhaps harness) the unmistaken talents of one of her five-year-old students (Jimmy, played by Sevak) who has a propensity to vocalise wonderful haikus.

From the get-go everything about this film feels creepy. Lisa starts feeding off the child’s talent as a source of nourishment for her own life. With a very intense performance from Gyllenhaal, her slightly manic nature becomes more and more untethered as the film progresses and the level of nurture provided by her is trampled by a sense of righteousness to claim the child as her finding and saving grace.

It’s a fairly microscopic film, coming at you from all angles with the possibility of something going horribly awry hanging over almost every scene like the sword of Damocles. It’s made all the more captivating by Gyllenhaal’s desperation and wide-eyed emotionless face.

We never really know Lisa or what drives or even haunts her, which is a pity, really, as a bit more context would have given this film more balance. But otherwise the plotting and pace are perfect throughout and the obvious direction the film seems to be headed in is thankfully avoided, replaced with a somewhat bizarre, albeit fitting, ending.

Words: Shane O’Reilly


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