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Kindergarten Teacher, The


Stars: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gael Garcia Bernal, Parker Sevak, Michael Chernus, Rosa Salazar, Haley Murphy, Libya Pugh, Ato Blankson-Wood

Director: Sara Colangelo

A kindergarten teacher for almost 20 years, flaky Lisa Spinelli (Gyllenhaal) is a mass of unfulfilled ambitions. She attends a poetry class run by Simon (Bernal), but her work there is uninspired until she encounters Jimmy (Sevak), a five-year-old of Indian parentage who is wont to suddenly come out with poems that Lisa considers extraordinary.

Confirming her belief in the boy's talent, she receives praise from her teacher when she submits Jimmy's poems as her own.

Home life with her overweight husband (Chernus) and two children experiencing all the normal problems fades into insignificance as she becomes obsessed with Jimmy, hi-jacking him from baseball practice to take him to a literary reading meeting where he recites two of his poems to audience applause.

Simon, however, is also at the reading and asks Lisa, whom he had easily seduced, to leave the class.

Worried by her attitude, Jimmy's father withdraws his son from Lisa's school. However, intent on stimulating Jimmy's mind and vicariously fulfilling her own dreams, Lisa kidnaps Jimmy and heads for the Canadian border. It's already apparent, however, that Mrs Spinelli is actually headed straight for the funny farm.

Very New York indie in its approach and execution, this movie's a sleeper all right, but not in the nicest way. None of its really hangs together, and Gyllenhaal's one-note performance soon grates on the nerves.

The kid's OK but doesn't look likely to have casting directors clamouring for his services any time soon.

David Quinlan

USA 2018. UK Distributor: Thunderbird. Colour (unspecified).
96 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 1.

Review date: 04 Mar 2019