The Kindergarten Teacher Review

I don’t remember any of my primary school teachers, and I’m pretty sure none of them remember me… well, maybe that one who let me take siestas in her class does.

Being 6 years old can be hard sometimes. 

Of course, if i was some poetry spouting prodigy worthy of remembrance, i’m sure i’d have made more of an impression on my teachers – after watching The Kindergarten Teacher, I’m pretty glad I was nothing to write home about.

Lisa has been teaching kindergarten kids for more than a dozen years now, and this simple kind of life and even simpler family has left her yearning for more.

Frustrated by her own children’s lack of interest in anything more scholarly than pool parties, getting high and getting laid, Lisa signs up for an adults poetry class.

Alas, her rudimentary efforts don’t go down particularly well with her new classmates or teacher.

So when one of her students, Jimmy, displays a precocious ability for composing poems, Lisa spots not only a young talent that she can nurture, but also a possible escape from her own hum drum existence.

But how far is teacher prepared to go to fill that hole inside of her?

The Kindergarten Teacher is a mostly sweet, though frequently unsettling, film about what happens to middle aged folk when the frustrations of unfulfilled dreams and ambitions overwhelm their so called life.

Lisa – perfectly played by indie go to girl Maggie Gyllenhaal – is trapped in her comfortable life, having settled down with her steady husband and grown increasingly disappointed by her children who are more interested in the material trappings of modern life, while our sort of heroine wonders what has become of hers.

While most men would go out and buy a fast car and pick up some even faster women, Lisa decides to project all her dying artistic hopes onto one of her schoolkids.

She may also pick up a fast man along the way.

The question is how far will Lisa take her obsession with her poetic prodigy, while we watch with increasing fear as Gyllenhaal pushes the boundaries of what is – and isn’t – acceptable in the teacher / pupil dynamic.

Directed by Sara Colangelo, The Kindergarten Teacher is an interesting film that sparks into life whenever Gyllenhaal and Gael Garcia Bernal – playing her amorous poetry teacher – share a scene together.

I guess the moral of this story is that our current way of life is so obsessed with material wealth – an inevitable consequence of capitalist society – that we’ve forgotten to be true to ourselves as we chase after the perfect life advertising has programmed most of us to want.

And it’s only once you’ve achieved what you thought you wanted, that you realise how hollow this dream usually is.

That’s my read on it anyway – one thing’s for sure, Jimmy’s never going to forget his kindergarten teacher.

Jonathan Campbell

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March 2019
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