Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Kindergarten Teacher

Movie Name: The Kindergarten Teacher
Year of Release: 2018
Director: Sara Colangelo
Stars: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Parker Sevak, Gael Garcia Bernal, Michael Chernus, Anna Baryshnikov, Rosa Salazar, Daisy Tahan, Sam Jules
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
View Trailer

Synopsis & Review:
Director Sara Colangelo has followed her feature directorial debut with "The Kindergarten Teacher", which made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival, and went on to premiere on Netflix. The film follows the story of Lisa Spinelli, a kindergarten teacher who is currently enrolled in adult classes, specifically literature ones (with a focus on poetry and creative writing). While Lisa seeks those classes as an outlet for her creative endeavors, the results are somewhat lackluster. Her family life is also somewhat placid, with her teenage children getting ready to tackle the challenge of college life, while her husband quietly supports her endeavors. Lisa is perplexed one day to hear one of her young students, the little Jimmy, who is all of 5 years old, express eloquently a poem he has created. Lisa recites the poem on her class, where the reception is unanimously favorable and borderline enthusiastic. Lisa becomes increasingly focused on the life of Jimmy, and making sure his precocious talent doesn't go to waste.
"The Kindergarten Teacher" is a remake of an Israeli film from 2014 with the same name. In this case, director Sara Colangelo creates a universe where the central protagonist, Lisa, looks tired and worn out by a life of having her voice tampered and muffled. The bond she creates with Jimmy, is mostly driven by her need to make sure that the precocious and talented young boy doesn't get crushed by life as she has been. Nothing about Lisa suggests a hardened existence, fraught with complications - there's instead a longing to being heard, understood, and being able to express herself in a way that is true to her inner workings. It's a film that uses the fantastically talented Maggie Gyllenhaal to build a portrait of a woman whose inner voice was lost at some point, due to family and other obligations, and who suddenly is reawakened, and loses her grip on reality. It's an impeccable character study, of a less than a perfect character, all the more rewarding precisely due to that.
The supporting cast is uniformly good, from Michael Chernus, Gael Garcia Bernal and the young Parker Sevak. Worth watching and discovering.