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TIFF 2018 Review: “The Kindergarten Teacher” (2018) ★★★★★


Millions of children go to kindergarten every single day to learn skills that will remain with them for a very long time. But it is also important for a child and for his unique skills to be noticed and acknowledged instead of being overlooked by parents. Sara Colangelo’s “The Kindergarten Teacher” does not follow a likable character, however, her rebellious nature and hidden intentions are what will trigger thought-provoking discussions across the board.

The film centers around Lisa, who’s a very successful teacher at the kindergarten where she’s worked for a very long time. Her ability to communicate with five-year-old students using language they can easily understand is fascinating. And there were no surprises when she notices in her student, Jimmy Roy, a talent in poetry.

Her obsession with him begins growing with every passing day. One day she takes one of Jimmy’s poems to the class where she reads it to everyone. The teacher (Gael Garcia Bernal) was so amazed by his way of writing poetry (she did not say that the poetry was written by Jimmy Roy), he signs up Jimmy to a poetry club where Lisa could read it to a much bigger group. However, realizing that she can’t really do that, she takes the boy with himself presenting him as her protégé.

“The Kindergarten Teacher” is a remake of an Israeli version of the film, and to speak honestly, quite a bizarre one. Lisa’s intentions, seemingly, are harmless. She tries to reach out to Jimmy’s father and let him know how gifted his son is. But the father was precise and clear in his tone, “I want my child to have a normal life.” What it means having a normal life is a definition we are yet to come up with. But Lisa has her own way of protecting the child and decides to do an unthinkable thing to give the child what the rest of the world denies him.

Maggie Gyllenhaal as Lisa, the kindergarten teacher, is amazing. She manages to capture in her character what the script decided to leave untold. While through her performances, she adds up more to Lisa. It’s the boy, at the end of the day, she is concerned more about than anything else in this life even though she has children and a husband, with whom she may not be as happy as she would want. The closing scene, at some point, will justify Lisa’s actions, but never enough to be fully able to understand her intentions.

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