The Kindergarten Teacher

Film, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
1 out of 5 stars
(1user review)
The Kindergarten Teacher

Maggie Gyllenhaal excels in a thorny indie about boundary-crossing obsession and thwarted ambition.

Film review by Helen O’Hara

Where does the line fall between selfless assistance and obsession? That’s the question raised by this thorny drama. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s teacher Lisa Spinelli is a vaguely dissatisfied wife and mother who struggles in the poetry classes she takes with charismatic lecturer Simon (Gael García Bernal). But everything changes when she hears Jimmy (Parker Sevak), one of her pupils, reciting a poem he has written. She becomes convinced that he is a prodigy and believes she must nurture his talent, whatever it takes.

Director Sara Colangelo avoids easy answers as Lisa goes to more and more extreme lengths to clear a path for Jimmy’s genius – if that’s what it is. Maybe his verse is a six-year-old’s nonsense, and Lisa and her friends are just pseuds for admiring it. Does Jimmy even want to be a poetry protégé? Regardless, Lisa sees herself as his svengali, basking in reflected glory even as she bitterly accepts her own limitations. There are shades of ‘Amadeus’ in her mania, with the major added wrinkle of an adult exploiting a tiny child.

While the young Sevak is very good, Colangelo mainly follows Gyllenhaal’s Lisa as she pursues her passion for excellence straight into disaster. It’s a quiet film that offers a powerful look at the heavy expectations we place on children and the inevitable disappointments of adult life. It’s also a powerful reminder that we need to be alert enough to balance the two. 

By: Helen O’Hara

Posted:

Release details

Rated:
12A
Release date:
Friday March 8 2019
Duration:
94 mins

Cast and crew

Director:
Sara Colangelo
Screenwriter:
Sara Colangelo
Cast:
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Gael García Bernal
Ato Blankson-Wood

1 cinema showing 'The Kindergarten Teacher'

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I love Maggie Gyllenhaal but despite her this film is slow and so pretentious! And I am French. As for the ending I wanted to hurl my glass of wine at the screen but it wasn't empty. A waste of 2h and £15. Avoid.