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TIFF Review: The Kindergarten Teacher

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A kindergarten teacher becomes obsessed with the poetic talent of a student.

While teaching kindergarten, Lisa Spinelli (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is also taking an adult learning class in poetry with rather unsuccessful results; her fortunes change when she accidentally discovers that a student (Parker Sevak) can effortlessly compose beautiful verses.  Frustration with her lack of creative talent and the disinterest from the student’s family to nurture and encourage his artistic gift, causes Spinelli to resort to rather desperate measures.

The story has a creepy quality as an adult takes credit for what was actually produced by a child.  There are two themes in constant play; someone gaining wish fulfilment through the abilities of another and a more maternal desire to foster the talent in spite of the indifference of others.  The various arguments are verbally expressed by the different characters so to clearly show the divided lines.  Maggie Gyllenhaal performs her role well but cannot raise above the creepiness that stems from an artistic rather sexual obsession.

Nice to see that the husband of Spinelli comes across as compassionate while the son and daughter are stereotypical teenagers.  The acting talents of Gael García Bernal are wasted in what is, in essence, an one-dimensional character.  Parker Sevak does a good job as the child protégé though it hard to believe that the words from his lips were not rehearsed. Unfortunately, there are not enough scenes like one that unfolds in a locked bathroom which cradles between being tragic and funny as it in those moments that the movie artistically breaks free.

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Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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