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Review: The Kindergarten Teacher

October 12, 2018

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Lisa Spinelli (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a kindergarten teacher in New York going through a bit of a midlife crisis, seemingly unhappy with her family life.

When she overhears one of her young students, Jimmy (Parker Sevak), reciting a poem he has written, she is convinced that he is a young prodigy and becomes obsessed with fostering his talent, seeing herself as the only one in his circle who can help him.

At first she starts passing the poems off as her own at the evening poetry classes she is taking, where they are met in earnest by the teacher (Gael García Bernal), but Lisa quickly starts to cross boundaries by meddling in more aspects of Jimmy’s life.

A remake of Nadav Lapid’s 2014 Israeli drama, The Kindergarten Teacher is a compelling film from writer-director Sara Colangelo, that unfolds with a sort of quiet intensity backed by an increasing sense of unease. Maggie Gyllenhaal delivers one of the best performances of her career, keeping us compelled as we try to parse out the true intentions behind her character’s inappropriate obsession with this child. As Lisa keeps blurring more and more boundaries with Jimmy, the film becomes quietly unnerving, building towards a fascinating last act.

The Kindergarten Teacher is now playing in limited release at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, and is also available to watch on Netflix.

A version of this review was originally published during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.

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