Film Review – The Kindergarten Teacher (2018)

Title – The Kindergarten Teacher (2018)

Director – Sara Colangelo (Little Accidents)

Cast – Maggie Gyllenhaal, Parker Sevak, Gael García Bernal, Michael Chernus, Rosa Salazar

Plot – New York kindergarten teacher and poetry fan Lisa Spinelli (Gyllenhaal) starts up an unhealthy obsession with her student Jimmy Roy (Sevak) who displays a knack for developing poems.

“Talent is so fragile and so rare. And our culture does everything to crush it”

Review by Eddie on 11/11/2019

Based on the Israeli film of the same name, Sara Colangelo’s indie darling The Kindergarten Teacher is an unnerving, off-putting and even hard to like dramatic experience but that is entirely the point of this cautionary tale, that just so happens to feature one of the best Maggie Gyllenhaal turns we’ve seen in years.

The best she’s been cinematically since the heydays of Secretary and Sherry Baby and equal to her work in cult HBO show The Deuce, Gyllenhaal knocks it out of the park here as lost soul teacher and wannabe poet Lisa Spinelli, whose unhealthy obsession with young student and potential poetry prodigy Jimmy Roy (played memorably by newcomer Parker Sevak) forms the foundation of Colangelo’s well-constructed yet hard to love experience.

Spinnelli is the type of layered, complex and sometimes downright unlikeable figure that many would struggle to bring to life in the fashion a film like The Kindergarten Teacher needed but thanks to Gyllenhaal Spinnelli is an awkwardly appealing figure, as we can’t help but be shocked and captivated by her mentally unhinged and obsessive ways as she looks to extract more out of Jimmy’s mind and in turn make herself more and more apparent in his life.

It’s an extremely odd narrative core that drives Colangelo’s film and one that often feels underdeveloped when the spotlight falls on other things in Spinnelli’s life such as her relationship with her husband Grant (an underutilised Michael Chernus) and her teenage children but it’s clearly not a focus of Colangelo as she instead ensures Gyllenhaal remains front and centre throughout as we go along for this odd and unpredictable journey.

It’s in the journey however that The Kindergarten Teacher does find some hurdles as its extremely hard to enjoy the film itself outside of Gyllenhaal’s turn, such is the very nature of its wince inducing happenings and while they never over step the boundaries into anything too hard too bare, witnessing Spinelli’s obsession grow into something truly troublesome and illegal isn’t what you’d call typically entertaining and outside of the films impressive lead turns, there’s not a whole lot other elements that would suggest you seek this tough to watch film out in any form of rush.

Final Say –

A tough watch thanks to its odd narrative and subject matter but one that is worth your time thanks to Maggie Gyllenhaal’s awards worthy turn, The Kindergarten Teacher is an above average indie but one that won’t appeal to a mass audience.

3 poetry open nights out of 5

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