Posted on at


Movie Review: THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER - Photo credit:, Edition by Amber255 via

Movies, movies, movies. What can be better for calm leisure time? Today let's talk about one more film of IMDb list of 50 best movies of 2018 THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHERFor the novice screenwriter and director Sara Colangelo, this film is just the second work as the full-length movie

THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER is a movie about secret expectations of yourself to the same extent as about the abuse of someone else's weakness. It's a drama rushing into a thriller at its speed. Maggie Gyllenhaal in her role is really exciting at the end of the last year film about the lowered hope and the struggle for a miracle.

The film by Sara Colangelo is a remake of the Israeli film of the same name, won the prize for best direction at the Sundance Film Festival last year.

The Kindergarten Teacher is probably the only movie about poetry with an ending as tense as any thriller. 


Sara Colangelo is not interested in the collective soul, but in personal delusions, the nature of creativity, the origins of submission, the creeping cold of madness. Who has the right to decide what is good for a person: parents, educators, the fans? Who has the right to decide is it genius in front of us? What, finally, should a woman do if life has passed over the middle, and children not make you happy, the husband does not excite, and you even are not good in poetry? Let's watch.

THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER, official trailer - Video credit:

The Short Story Of The Movie 

There is nothing interesting in the life of 40-year-old Lisa (Maggie Gyllenhaal): her husband is sweet but slightly boring, her relationship with her own children is not going well, and they live in a usual house with a pool on Staten Island. Her two children grew up as typical teens with conversations about hashtags on Instagram and plan to go to war as part of the US Army.

With increasing indifference, the woman works as a kindergarten teacher, and her only outlet of the boring life is attending poetic courses.

When one day Lisa discovers an incredible talent for poems creation in one of her 5-year-old children in kindergarten, she first comes feels the delight, and later becomes obsessed with a boy. The woman believes that this child is a real miracle, and she must save the fragile genius from parents who are indifferent to the art.

Netflix films THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER - Photo credit:

The Content Of The Movie

Poetry in cinema is often a kind of glue that connects the plot and semantic layers of the film. You can recall, in fact, Poetry by Chang-dong Lee, in which the poems acted as a psychological shield for the main character, helping her brighten up her unsightly life. In Paterson by Jim Jarmusch, the main character broadcasting his own and directorial philosophy to the outside world and the audience. In THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER, the poems of the little talented Jimmy become for the protagonist - the teacher in the kindergarten Lisa - a guide to the world of her unrealized hopes.

The scenery of THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER  is very reminiscent of American Beauty, and for 20 years, vegetables for dinner, a marriage with zero passion and children engaged only in themselves have not gone away. 

The film, in fact, is not about poetry - if you wish, the boy could be a talented singer, artist, sculptor, and at least a wood-carver. The main thing is that he is a new Mozart, as Liza calls him. For him, these are only modest, unconscious attempts at self-expression; for her, the poems are an attempt to compensate for dissatisfaction with life by joining something high. The tragedy is that she herself does not realize that she simply uses both the boy and his gift.

The film about child prodigy THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER -  Photo credit:

Jimmy becomes for Liza a guide to the world which she wants to make so much, but she cannot in any way because of her own inconsistency. And the film is like a verdict to representatives of that type of creative people who seek to fill in the missing links in life through creation.

But in fact, the deal is not in poems, and not even in creativity. True creativity should pursue a single goal - to help people. The bogus and false creative works, and not from the heart, but from the demons that burn the person from the inside only bears harm and suffering. As well as Lisa’s imaginary concern for Jimmy, which in fact is nothing but filling her own voids with someone else’s hands.

The line between good intentions and a painful obsession is imperceptibly erased; the mood of the film becomes more and more disturbing, and almost the thriller breaks through the quiet drama - the same quiet, but this only makes it more frightening.


The film, despite the slowness and even in a certain sense, the lethargy of the narrative, quite cleverly plays with the audience, continually forcing him to guess what he is still watching - a family or social drama about the ruthless consumer society and the unenviable fate of the artist in these proposed circumstances? A satirical tragicomedy about mediocrity and plagiarism or a psychological thriller about a psychopath? 

The genre state goes from one to another, and is largely - or even entirely - born of the game Maggie Gyllenhaal, whose heroine so quietly goes crazy, obsessed with someone else's talent and devoured by her own mediocrity, that madness, which becomes obvious at the finale, scary more than any stories about maniacs.

Aversion to her gets along with the deepest sympathy, and you will not find such images in the cinema, especially the modern one, sharpened on fighting feminism. The most interesting thing in The Educator is perhaps the ending of the film, psychologically scary and unequivocally sad, restrained and concise, but this is even more frightening because the finale is essentially open.

The film about child prodigy THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER - Photo credit:

The Personages Of The Movie 

Every morning in the kindergarten where she works, she looks into the eyes of five-year kids, hangs up their drawings, and dictates the alphabet once more. The support is what others are expecting from her, and she plays this role without mistakes. In the evenings, Liza picks her fork in boiled vegetables - lifeless, like herself.

Lisa is more pleasant to answer a sudden phone call than to have sex with a fat and harmless husband. Her main obsession is poetry courses, for which she floats as far as Manhattan to discuss amateur poems in the company of an infectious teacher with wide eyes (Gael Garcia Bernal). 

Evening classes are lighting a spark of inspiration in deeply unhappy people like Liza - the best possible completion of one more day of another year. Lisa even writes on the way home a short Haiku: The garden of dreams blooms - and compares herself to the bud that breaks through the asphalt — even her husband likes it, but the teacher does not.

Maggie Gyllenhaal - Photo credit:

One day in kindergarten, Lisa sees her pupil, the brown-eyed and curly boy Jimmy (Parker Sevak), usually silent and unsociable, muttering something under his breath about the ray of golden light, God, and beauty. Lisa runs to the notebook and writes down the words of Jimmy, brings them to the evening courses and for the first time in a long period receives detailed comments from classmates and teacher's praise. 

Now everything that Jimmy says in a state of quiet trance, Liza cares most of all - she is sure that she is closely observing the maturing of a child-genius, whose talent people will throw on the above-mentioned asphalt. The teacher poses questions to Jimmy's babysitter - a girl busy with her own affairs - and his father, the owner of a dubious club who wants his son to earn money and stand on solid ground. 

Mentoring turns into perseverance, attempts to support - into an obsession with “little Mozart”, but for the first in a long period, Lisa gains the meaning of life: to grow up in a small creature that absorbs, like a sponge, observation, faith in oneself and the power to stand up for the right to see the miraculous in a world where there is no miracle left. 

Most of the characters here speak quietly and in a low voice, without confidence voicing intuitive sensations, which is difficult to admit to yourself and others.

50 best movies of 2018: THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER -  Photo credit:

The son is ready for severed arms and legs on the battlefield, and he does not care about his mother's wrinkles. The daughter takes a photo on Instagram; she studies perfectly and smokes grass in the backyard, twirling her butt in front of a pimply boy. Family dinners children endure out of favor, and they are not distracted from the screens of the phone even when mom gets the courage to tête-à-tête and neatly sits on the edge of the bed.

For them, mom and dad are white noise. Partly because, preaching freedom of expression, Lisa missed the moment long ago to prove ideas that she hotly believes in with her own example. Liza, with a bitter cry about art, is a recognizable heroine with clipped wings, who discovered in the second half of her life that she does not need the road she was going to, it does not interest her, and it will not satisfy her great hunger.

How Lisa became a teacher, remains a mystery, and the most interesting in the film - was she disappointed in the once unconditional choice or from the beginning agreed to less because her parents did not believe in her?

It is the dual nature that makes Maggie Gyllenhaal so convincing in the role of a middle-aged woman, whose memory, pain, and life experience seem to constantly replace each other.

Maggie Gyllenhaal on THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER - Video credit:

The Technical Side Of The Movie

The script of THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER is tragic, depressive, and executed in dark shades. The load in creating the film space is distributed among all who worked on the film. The director deliberately lengthens the scenes to torment the viewer with uncertainty. Silence here plays no less a role than words, which the characters in addition utter painfully. 

And Maggie Gyllenhaal instantly passes in her states from victim to predator, from imitator to mentor. This creates an atmosphere of volatility, and the viewer trembles at the touch of the unknown, trying to understand the place of the genius, not only in the world in general but also in his life in particular.

The view even in the tensest moments is soft; the plans flow from one to another; the camera seems to peer at the main character, emphasizing at the visual level that there is nothing heroic in Liza’s actions and even thoughts.

Separately, it is worth noting the music that sounds in almost all frames of the film - it is always the real classics.

 I do not think there is a need to say something more. The fact that THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER won the prize for best direction at the Sundance Film Festival says a lot. 

 Drama film THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER - Photo credit:

The Collective Work Of The Actors 

Finally, I can’t pass the central duo of actors: Parker Sevak and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

There are so few actors today who are able to convincingly and reliably convey intellectual despair. Maggie Gyllenhaal - one of the best actresses of our time, is able to embody internal contradictions on the screen. It is impossible to break away from her face. You sympathize with her, no matter how strange her heroine’s actions are.

Gyllenhaal has been too good too often to label any one of her performances as her best, but she’s certainly never been better than she is here. 


This set of internal contradictions Maggie Gyllenhaal plays very subtly, without demonstrative strong emotions. The whole dramatic depth of her heroine is revealed in Liza’s address to Jimmy, when the teacher behind the simple words for a child hide adult' depression and disappointment. 

Maggie Gyllenhaal is incredibly organic in the role of Lisa. This role reveals to the viewer all her bright talent of a dramatic actress. Maggie - a real diamond, and now her acting skills should not be subject to doubt.

Parker Sevak was professional in the frame for his so young age. He is insanely natural; there was a feeling that he didn’t notice the camera at all, and behaved the way he would usually behave.

In the episode, you can see the Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal, familiar to many from the films of Alejandro G. Iñárritu. 

THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER review - Photo credit:

On A Final Note

In the stories about the mutual misunderstanding of the poet and materialistic society, which we can find a lot in the history of cinema, the viewer's sympathy almost by habit goes to the first ones. But director Sara Colangelo, without ever making assessments, thoughtfully and honestly shows the downside of this confrontation, making it far from so unambiguous. Yes, the flower of talent is really difficult to break through the asphalt of everyday life, but it is better to stay away from people who seriously use such metaphors.

Perhaps, THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER is one of the most honest films about creativity. About how attractive a genius is, how you can lose your head for it, about cruel means the educators use to get what they want, through what kind of rubbish it all grows and how to collect and sort it out beautifully.  And, most importantly, that creativity exists not for someone, but just exists. 

Movie Review: THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER - Photo credit:

In summary, THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER is a subtle psychological drama of Sara Colangelo about lost people, whose youth is already behind, and now there is a load of unfulfilled desires that weighs more than any physical pain. 

At the same time, this film will be interesting mainly to creative people, as well as to those who love thoughtful cinema. At its relatively leisurely pace, the narrative takes all the viewer's attention, and mostly this is facilitated by the play of Maggie Gyllenhaal, who played one of her best roles.

This is more than just middle-aged angst, this is a woman unravelling, a complex mix of dissatisfaction and projection, failed boundaries and obsession that loosen her grip on reality.


My rating: 9.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 90/100
Metacritic: 75/100
Critics average: 66/100
IMDb: 6.8/10  


Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog

2019, All Rights Reserved.

You are very welcome to join Bitlanders and share your valuable knowledge and opinion.


About the author