A kindergarten teacher in New York becomes obsessed with one of her students whom she believes is a child prodigy.
A remake of a 2014 Israeli film, ‘The Kindergarten Teacher’ is a slow burning psychological drama driven by a superb central performance from the always excellent Maggie Gyllenhaal. The film follows Lisa Spinelli (Gyllenhaal), a kindergarten teacher going through a period of dissatisfaction in her life, largely driven by her regret at how her life has turned out. She has two teenage children, a loving husband and a steady job, but her life lacks passion and she tries to fill that void with a poetry class led by the charismatic Simon (Gael Garcia Bernal), who dismisses her poetry as derivative. One day she overhears Jimmy, one of her young students, reciting a poem while waiting to be picked up and she decides to take a keen interest in his talent, as well as using his poetry in her class.
Lisa’s interest in Jimmy starts off as a standard teacher-student dynamic but as Lisa’s unhappiness at her own life situation increases, her focus on Jimmy becomes more central to her life to the extent she’s almost using his talent as a conduit for her own forgotten dreams. Simon’s interest in her grows, more for her perceived talent than Lisa herself, and for a spell, she rediscovers some of the passion and drive missing from her life. As time progresses, Lisa’s actions become more extreme and I felt the implausibilities started to rack up in the screenplay, taking me out of the drama, despite the best efforts of a truly sensational Maggie Gyllenhaal. The film is well directed by Sara Colangelo and the supporting performances from the likes of Bernal and Michael Chernus as Lisa’s understanding husband are great, but the final act did lose me somewhat.
‘The Kindergarten Teacher’ is a solid remake that explores some interesting themes through Maggie Gyllenhaal’s teacher, even if I felt it stretches credulity a little too much towards the end.
Directed By: Sara Colangelo
Starring: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gael Garcia Bernal, Michael Chernus, Parker Sevak, Anna Baryshnikov, Ajay Naidu, Rosa Salazar, Sam Jules, Daisy Tahan and Samrat Chakrabarti