Less a master class in inappropriate high-school relationships than the CliffsNotes version, A Teacher isn’t going to tell you anything Nabokov or Election didn’t. Actually, the only thing this indie seems studious about is its unwillingness to pass judgment on adult Diana (Lindsay Burdge), an attractive yet demure Texas English instructor, and Eric (Will Brittain), a sensitive jock pulling the sexual strings before the film even begins. For once, the restraint feels like coyness: Even if you’re not expecting the long-telegraphed ruination, couldn’t our time be better spent shifting around the power dynamic a bit, even at the risk of unlikability?
Both actors commit to naturalistic dialogue (and some relaxed nudity that doesn’t feel gratuitous). Meanwhile, Brooklyn-based director Hannah Fidell touches on an economic disparity that could have been further explored: Eric, bound for college in the fall, lives in a glowing McMansion and sweeps Diana away in his SUV to the family ranch, while his paramour occupies a murky apartment with a roommate. Yet the movie plays out in a depressingly obvious way, and you have to laugh at the finale’s big cry, set to Lee Moses’s “If Loving You Is a Crime (I’ll Always Be Guilty).” Really?
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