The Kindergarten Teacher

Sara Colangelo’s The Kindergarten Teacher, an American remake of the 2014 Israeli drama of the same name directed by Nadav Lapid, never really earned my admiration.

Staten Island dweller Lisa Spinelli (Maggie Gyllenhaal) has been a patient and caring kindergarten teacher for nearly twenty years. She never had problems at work and her current concerns have to do with her two teenage children, Josh (Sam Jules), who is fed up with school, and Lainie (Daisy Tahan), who was caught smoking weed with a boyfriend. However, Lisa is experiencing an inexplicable unfulfillment, which leads her to attend poetry classes for adults, dispassionately tutored by Simon (Gael Garcia Bernal in low-key mode).

Open to something new, Lisa sleeps with Simon, an incident with a minimal emotional impact when compared with her new discovery: Jimmy Roy (Parker Sevak), a 5-year-old boy with an advanced ability to compose poems in the spur of the moment. Stunned with his rare gift and curious about his home environment, Lisa asks Becca (Rosa Salazar), the child’s nanny, more information about his inaccessible father, Nikhil (Ajay Naidu). Rapidly, Lisa nurtures a profound admiration for the kid, who she thinks meritorious of special attention in this materialistic world we all live. However, and sooner than later, this admiration turns into an obsession.

“…Lisa nurtures a profound admiration for the kid, who she thinks meritorious of special attention in this materialistic world…”

The daring teacher sort of kidnaps Jimmy to have him recite his poems in a late-night session at Bowery Poetry Club in Manhattan. This causes Nikhil and Simon to be angry at her for disparate reasons. Nevertheless, she repeats the move later again, in the name of Jimmy’s innate talent, but the consequences won’t be the same as the first time.

Lisa got on my nerves as she reads her own poem to a disconnected Jimmy. She does these meek eyes at the same time that airs an exasperating expression that mirrors a frivolous profoundness. It’s all by the sake of art but maybe what this kid really needs is to play with his little friends.

It is also hard to put up with the ending, which feels forced. Hence, the only reason to watch The Kindergarten Teacher is Ms. Gyllenhaal’s performance, whose quality makes us resist until it’s possible.

The Kindergarten Teacher (2018) Directed by Sara Colangelo. Written by Sara Colangelo. Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gael Garcia Bernal, Parker Sevak, Ajay Naidu, Rosa Salazar, Daisy Tahan, Sam Jules.

4 out of 10 stars

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