I was watching an interview with actress Maggie Gyllenhaal today, and she was talking about her brand new film: The Kindergarten Teacher. I was intrigued because I know how good of an actress she is, so I Googled it and watched the trailer. I got on Netflix right after and watched it. I think of this film as a fine wine…it should be savored. It’s not meant for simple popcorn entertainment and is something much deeper than that. This is a story that is very complex in many ways and touches on issues that affect real people. Subjects like sadness, obsession, and loneliness are all covered here. They go from one to the other as the story progresses.
Maggie F-ing Gyllenhaal… oh my god this woman can act! Seriously I was so blown away by the amount of feeling and depth she brought to this role. She had a lot to juggle here, she plays a woman who has an immense appreciation and admiration for poetry, but she’s very much alone in her affinity for the arts. She doesn’t get that part of her feed at home or anywhere else, so when she hears her student coming up with these advanced poems, she feels the need to do everything she can to nurture his gift.
On the surface level, this seems very innocent and like a feel good type of film, but it turns out to be something very different. It turns into a tale of a woman who crosses the line of acceptable behavior out of her desire to nurture this child’s talent. The way this story is told is very masterfully done. It first sets up a proper foundation, by introducing us to Lisa (Gyllenhaal’s character) and showing us her life and what she desires. It’s so important that the viewer sees her honestly and understands exactly what she wants.
After we get a glimpse into Lisa’s life and what she’s all about, we then get introduced to Jimmy (who’s beautifully played by Parker Sevak). We see his intelligence and childhood innocence, and how that meshes with Lisa’s discontentment with her standing in the world. The relationship between these two characters is very complicated and both the actors and the writing highlight that well. The pacing allows us to see the progression of their connection and how it goes from a normal teacher-student dynamic to a complicated mess.
It would’ve been really easy to turn this film into a thriller of some sort, perhaps a fatal attraction type thing, but instead we get something that I think is much more satisfying. This is a character study, and a very interesting one at that. I don’t think there was anything here that I didn’t like or thought was off, pretty much everything the filmmakers chose to do worked. Maggie should be very proud and I’d even say that she deserves some major award attention for this – Golden Globe and Oscar type attention. This is just one of those performances that grabs you and makes you feel what her character is feeling, which is crucial here. The ending is has a very organic feel to it, it’s brutally honest and fits in perfectly with the rest of the film.
I honestly cannot recommend this film enough to true film lovers. To be honest, if you watch movies just to be entertained and nothing else you might get bored or be disappointed. But if you like films that go to a deeper level, I think you’ll fall in love with this one.