The Kindergarten Teacher
By James Davidson
“The Kindergarten Teacher” is a Netflix original movie that debuted in 2018. It stars Maggie Gyllenhaal as Lisa Spinelli, a kindergarten teacher in New York, whose true passion is writing amateur poetry. She becomes convinced that one of her students, Jimmy Roy, is a poet prodigy akin to Mozart. She becomes obsessed with Jimmy, writing all of his poetry down, taking him to poetry readings, and trying to nurture his creative mind. The problem with this, is that Jimmy’s parents don’t approve, his father wants him to focus on being a “normal kid” and not pursue an artistic path in life.
Lisa’s obsession with Jimmy begins to affect her life at home and her relationship with her husband and children. She also begins to pass Jimmy’s poems off as her own in her poetry class, earning the attention of her teacher and classmates.
This movie sounded interesting when I was reading about it, and the trailer looked entertaining. I was hoping for an exciting, thoughtful, drama or maybe even thriller. Unfortunately, this movie didn’t turn out to be as exciting, or entertaining, as I was hoping it would be.
The movie started out promising enough, the story was fairly straight forward and established the plot early. My main issue with the story is, after the beginning it seems to peter out. After establishing all of the relationships between the characters, the story just seems to stall out and not go anywhere. I often found myself wondering where this story was going and how it was going to end up. Unfortunately I didn’t really get a clear answer to those questions. This caused the film’s pace to drag on, the movie is only one and a half hours long, but to me, it felt much longer. I would have liked to see the story and characters develop a little more, unfortunately both remained fairly stagnant.
While the story seemed to drag on, the acting and film making almost makes up for the sluggish plot. Maggie Gyllenhaal is excellent as Lisa. She was very believable as an obsessive teacher and before she became obsessive, reminded me of a lot of kindergarten teachers that I know. The supporting cast also does a fantastic job, this movie focuses a lot on relationships, and the cast does a great job portraying accurate, relatable relationships with each other.
The one relationship that I didn’t think was clear or accurate, was the most important one between Lisa and Jimmy. I think that Lisa is supposed to be obsessed with Jimmy and trying to nurture him maternally, but that’s not how the relationship came across to me. Their connection came across as a little creepy and inappropriate, which I guess is the point, but it went a bit overboard for me. It also would have helped if I saw the relationship develop over time, instead it seems that Lisa went from zero to sixty overnight. Which, again, I suppose might be the point.
This movie is rated R for some language and nudity. There is nothing inappropriate about this movie aside from some gratuitous nudity which seemed a little out of place to me. I think the filmmaker could have effectively told the story they were trying to tell without any nudity. Unfortunately the nudity makes the movie inappropriate for young viewers. This movie is a fun movie to pass the time while stuck in the house alone, or as a date night in, away from the kids, given our current situation.
“The Kindergarten Teacher” is a movie with a promising premise and some spot-on acting. Unfortunately the plot seems to stall out and makes the movie drag on a bit. There are also some confusing messages being sent by some of the characters. It’s still a very entertaining movie and helps pass some time while stuck at home. It earns 3 out of 5 stars.