Poetic prodigy sparks teacher's reckless obsession

Parker Sevak and Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Kindergarten Teacher (IMDB)

The Kindergarten Teacher is a remake of a 2014 Israeli film of the same name about a woman who becomes obsessed with a child who has a prodigious talent for poetry. Source: ACOFB.

Lisa (Maggie Gyllenhaal) has been working as a kindergarten teacher for many years. She has a husband who also works and teenage children at home with whom she does not always connect. She connects well with the kindergarten group and is able to play with, gently instruct and nurture them. Her home situation moves her more towards the classroom than life at home.

Lisa is also an aspiring poet, which raises further complications in her life. The difficulty is that she has been aspiring for many years. She brings her poems to an adult education course, led by Simon (Gael Garcia Bernal), who appreciates her presence and encourages but does not praise her finished work.

Then, Lisa overhears one of her students, Jimmy (Parker Seva) reciting some verses. Lisa listens, is charmed and amazed by what she hears from a five-year-old. This begins a serious turn of events, for Jimmy and Lisa, and reveals some moments of truth that may come too late.

What is Lisa to do, so charmed as she is by Jimmy’s poems? She takes them to her adult education class and passes them off as her own, impressing her lecturer and class. Lisa becomes obsessed with the boy and reveals to her class that he is the talent behind the poem, which sees her banned from the class. 

Jimmy’s father, on the other hand, doesn’t respond well to poetry and insists that Jimmy goes to sports practice. And, as a young boy, Jimmy seems oblivious to this tussle between his father and his teacher.

She decides to enter Jimmy into a poetry competition, taking him there without the permission of his father, urging him to recite his poetry and receive acclaim. By this time, Lisa has bypassed support from her family and becomes reckless.

In these years when child protection is so important, harm to children seems more significant. There are other ways of doing harm then sexual abuse and Lisa goes beyond bounds in trying to possess the boy – and it is interesting that Jimmy becomes more alert to this than we might have thought.

This film is a strong drama about a competent woman who begins to fail and puts herself into a more than compromising position, all in the name of benefiting the child.

- Reviewed by Fr Peter Malone MSC, ACOFB

The Kindergarten Teacher: Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gael Garcia Bernal, Michael Chernus, Parker Sevak. Directed by Sarah Colangelo.  96 minutes. Rated M (Mature themes and coarse language). In cinemas April 12.

FULL REVIEW

The Kindergarten Teacher (ACOFB)

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