Time: 96 Minutes
Age Rating: Offensive language
Maggie Gyllenhaal as Lisa Spinelli
Parker Sevak as Jimmy Roy
Michael Chernus as Grant Spinelli
Gael García Bernal as Simon
Anna Baryshnikov as Meghan
Ajay Naidu as Nikhil Roy
Rosa Salazar as Becca
Director: Sara Colangelo
A teacher (Maggie Gyllenhaal) sees such great promise in her 5-year-old student (Parker Sevak) that she goes to unreasonable lengths to protect his talent.
I heard some good things about The Kindergarten Teacher a while ago. I pretty much only watched this because I heard that Maggie Gyllenhaal gave a really great performance in it, I didn’t know anything else about the movie aside from the premise and that it would be distributed by Netflix. The Kindergarten Teacher overall is a solid movie, with a fantastic lead performance by Gyllenhaal, even if it’s not the easiest movie to watch.
The Kindergarten Teacher is a pretty straightforward character study and it doesn’t try to be anything more than that. It’s only 90 minutes and they don’t overcomplicate things, and they keep the plot moving at a reasonably good pace, even if this movie is very at its core an intimate drama. It is probably worth noting that this movie is a bit of an uncomfortable watch, despite the plot not sounding like it would be. It’s not extremely disturbing and there’s nothing really too graphic or anything like that of the sort, though it is unnerving during portions of the movie. It’s uncomfortable in the sense that over the course of the movie, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character gradually oversteps her boundaries when it comes to the child, and you just want her to stop what she’s doing. Now thankfully they don’t go for the worst case scenario like many of us would think it would (it honestly would feel kind of cheap if they did) but its nonetheless not easy to watch. With that said, while you might have those feelings, it’s still rather riveting and you want to see what will happen at the end of the movie.
The main reason to watch The Kindergarten Teacher is for Maggie Gyllenhaal’s incredible performance as the titular Kindergarten Teacher. While I admit I haven’t seen a ton of her performances, this probably ranks among her best and is definitely the best I’ve seen from her so far. I like that despite how it’s clear that what she is doing is morally wrong, it does take a sympathetic angle on her that shows how some of it is well intentioned and you can see why she would have this obsession that would make her do the things she wants to do. At the same time though, the movie is fully aware that what she’s doing isn’t good. It’s a complex and layered performance that was delivered excellently by Gyllenhaal. The supporting cast is pretty good as well, with Michael Chernus, Gael Garcia Bernal and others serving their parts as well. The actor who plays the main child who Gyllenhaal’s character is particularly focussed on, Jimmy Sevak, was also quite good in his role, quite convincing and effective as a potential protégé who’s still quite innocent in this stage of his life.
The direction by Sara Colangelo (who also wrote the movie) is pretty good. The overall direction is all done at an adequate level to serve this story, it’s nothing flashy or miraculous, but it worked quite well.
The Kindergarten Teacher is not necessarily an easy watch, even though it was all around a solid movie with regards to the acting, writing and direction. However I’d still say that it might be worth watching for Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is really great here and deserving of way more praise than she’s been getting for her performance.