Maggie Gyllenhaal gives a career-best performance as a kindergarten teacher who oversteps her bounds in a mission to help one of her students. Lisa Spinelli (Gyllenhaal) is a dedicated teacher with a love of poetry who joins an evening class and shares her own compositions with the group and teacher (Gael García Bernal). When she discovers her five-year-old student Jimmy Roy (Parker Sevak) is prone to occasional outbursts of dazzling linguistic virtuosity, she is eager to nurture his burgeoning gift. Yet to Lisa’s frustration, none of the other adults in Jimmy’s life seem to care about his talents. Becoming fixated on the need to cultivate and archive the boy’s creative output, Lisa takes it upon herself to bring Jimmy’s words to the world. Out of this noble impulse, something far darker and obsessional develops.
Gyllenhaal shines in this subtle psychological thriller, a remake of Nadav Lapid’s Israeli film of the same name which unsettled and captivated all who saw it back in 2014. Writer-director Sara Colangelo, who picked up a Directing Award at this year’s Sundance, has kept the bones of the original film, shifting the location to the US and changing the sex of the lead character. These changes illuminate new resonances in this story, a dark parable about femininity and creativity in today’s United States.
“The Kindergarten Teacher is probably the only movie about poetry with an ending as tense as any thriller.” Peter Bradshaw THE GUARDIAN