Connect with us
The Kindergarten Teacher review
Image: Netflix

Film

The Kindergarten Teacher is an Introspective Unraveling of an Ordinary Woman’s Aspirations

Sundance 2018: The Kindergarten Teacher

Sara Colangelo’s The Kindergarten Teacher reflects on the spiral of escalating actions that Lisa (Maggie Gyllenhaal) takes as her artistic and personal ambitions fall to the wayside. She’s uplifted by the arrival of what seems like an inherently talented young boy who could be a great poet — if only the right person were there to protect his genius. There’s a growing hunger within the story for acquiring more from life that can’t be satiated or stopped by the boundaries put up by society. With her kind eyes and soft voice, Gyllenhaal’s embodiment of a woman sliding into precarious desperation is quiet, glacier-like, and would be on the edge of almost being unseen if Colangelo weren’t asking us to look so close at her actions. The Kindergarten Teacher is an introspective unraveling of a life well lived out of the spotlight, putting an ordinary woman’s aspirations on display with a knowing and compassionate gaze that doesn’t so much judge as commiserating.

The Kindergarten Teacher showcases a Maggie Gyllenhaal extremely free with her body; it’s put in front of the camera in a non-gratuitous, nonchalant, everyday sense that frames her as a woman with a normal sex drive. Her husband (Michael Chernus), meanwhile, is a paper-thin character that only stands to show how traditional their life is and how the problem doesn’t lie with him. Her teenage children, on the other hand, are negligent of their mother’s eagerness for them to achieve and have no interest in appeasing her.

So, it’s at work that Lisa can daydream about what the small children in her care can accomplish, and at a nighttime poetry class becomes where she can try her own creative hand. At school, she discovers 5-year-old Jimmy (Parker Sevak) rambling off incredible musings on life and decides to turn them into her poetry class for some honest feedback. To her joy and embarrassment, his poetry is much better received than her work. Her teacher (an energetic and enthused Gael García Bernal) is suddenly attentive, and her life seems to be progressing towards something more meaningful for the first time in years. The child’s potential, her own children’s lack of enthusiasm for outside validation, and her professional failings push her further and further down a rabbit hole where she feels as though there is no other person to bolster Jimmy’s unique gift — the sort that could quickly fade if not nourished.

The Kindergarten Teacher
Image: Netflix

The Kindergarten Teacher entreats us to see how close any one of us (but particularly women) are to throwing away our hard-earned lives with one mistake. All dreams cannot be made into reality when laws and cemented lives stand in opposition. Colangelo’s first feature, Little Accidents, dealt with the hard reality of earning a living in coal country and the reverberations of a lack of moral responsibility. Here, she plunges into a life that’s not on the edge of poverty but also walks an unstable line of risk and empathy. While not as moving or devastating as Little Accidents, this film has an almost enigmatic tenderness and sense of condolence towards its protagonist’s shortcomings. A lesser work would condemn her actions, but instead, we are brought to a place of consideration and shared loss.

Lisa’s story — laced with sex, an obsession with the immortality of art, and a mother-like determination to promote the welfare of a child despite objections from everyone else close to him — is challenging yet stimulating in how it conveys her flawed humanity above all else. It’s up to the audience to discern how much of Lisa’s decision-making is actually altruistic, or if she’s more hellbent on securing herself as a woman attuned to artistic merit than anything else. Colangelo’s direction fills The Kindergarten Teacher with a sympathetic undercurrent that warns of the extent that women who are unable to carve a niche for themselves and those that they love in the world can go to be fulfilled.

Watch The Kindergarten Teacher

Now Streaming

Written By

Brian Marks is Sordid Cinema's Lead Film Critic. His writing has appeared in The Village Voice, LA Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, and Ampersand. He's a graduate of USC's master's program in Specialized Arts Journalism. You can find more of his writing at InPraiseofCinema.com. Best film experience: driving halfway across the the country for a screening of Jean-Luc Godard's "King Lear." Totally worth it.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Facebook

Trending

Beyond The Black Rainbow – Austere, Cerebral, and Sometimes Maddening

Film

50 Best HBO Shows of All Time 50 Best HBO Shows of All Time

50 Best HBO Shows of All Time (Part 2)

Culture

Oz Pilot The Routine review Oz Pilot The Routine review

Oz: Revisiting the Pilot Episode of HBO’s Darkest Show

TV

50 Best HBO Shows of All Time 50 Best HBO Shows of All Time

50 Best HBO Shows of All Time (Part 1)

TV

The Shield TV Pilot Marked the Start of the Golden Age for television The Shield TV Pilot Marked the Start of the Golden Age for television

The Shield TV Pilot Marked the Start of the Golden Age of Television

TV

Star Wars Lightsaber Duels Ranked Star Wars Lightsaber Duels Ranked

15 Best Star Wars Lightsaber Duels Ranked

Film

The Wire Season 1 and 2 The Wire Season 1 and 2

20 Years Later, The Wire’s Genre Filmmaking is Still Unmatched (Part 1)

TV

Best of the Wire Best of the Wire

The Best of The Wire: A Superlative List

TV

Apple TV+’s The Big Conn is a Compelling but Overlong True Crime Series  

TV

Jerry West and Mob Hits: HBO’s Winning Time and What Really Happened

TV

We Own This City: Why You Should Be Watching the Anticipated Spiritual Sequel to The Wire

Culture

The Wire Season 3 The Wire Season 3

20 Years Later, The Wire’s Genre Filmmaking is Still Unmatched (Part 2)

TV

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness review Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness review

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a Multiverse Muddle 

Film

The Fifth Element retrospective The Fifth Element retrospective

The Fifth Element 25 Years Later: Still One of the Greatest Space Operas Ever

Film

best and worst of Star Trek best and worst of Star Trek

The Best and Worst of Star Trek

TV

Ranking Mission Impossible Ranking Mission Impossible

The Definitive Ranking of the Mission: Impossible Series

Film

Connect