Maggie Gyllenhaal gives a captivating performance as an overworked teacher who becomes obsessed with one of her young students and his prodigious gift for poetry, in Sara Colangelo’s English-language remake of Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid’s challenging 2014 drama.
The Kindergarten Teacher
Adapting the award-winning Israeli film for a critical moment in America, writer-director Sara Colangelo and producer-star Maggie Gyllenhaal have created a fascinating drama that gets right under your skin. Featuring a Gyllenhaal performance that looks destined for best-of-the-year lists, The Kindergarten Teacher begins in one woman's decision but has much to say about how we value art.
Lisa Spinelli (Gyllenhaal) has been teaching kindergarten long enough to yearn for something more than each year's small victories with five-year-olds. She signs up for a poetry class at night. The teacher (Gael García Bernal, also appearing at the Festival in Museo and The Accused) is inspiring and attractive, but Lisa soon sees the limits of her talents. She is newly attuned to the possibilities of language, though, so when one of her kindergarten students begins stringing together words that carry the brilliance of great poetry, she believes she has a prodigy on her hands. She sets out to cultivate the creative gift she sees in Jimmy Roy (Parker Sevak). Everyone else around the little boy is too crass and distracted to recognize his genius. It will be up to Lisa and Lisa alone to bring her verbal Mozart to the world.
The Kindergarten Teacher, a marvel of tone, won Best Director for Colangelo when it launched at Sundance. As Lisa pushes her advocacy into obsession, Colangelo keeps us guessing how far things will go, but always manages to keep us on Lisa's side.
Roy Thomson Hall