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BFI London Film Festival 2018 Review: The Kindergarten Teacher – “Heart-breaking and beautiful”

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Maggie Gyllenhaal stars as Lisa, a kindergarten teacher trying to reawaken her own creativity by taking an evening class in poetry outside of school hours. While her own poems get lacklustre responses from others in the class, she discovers that one of her pupils – at the mere age of five – has an incredible talent for writing poetry and starts to make him her primary focus.

Lisa starts to nurture the boy’s talent, writing down the poems he says and encouraging him to perform them and to be more creative. Pretty soon, the nurturing turns into obsession. She doesn’t believe that the boy’s father is doing enough and she doesn’t like the way his nanny treats him like a child (even though he is one). She even looks at her own teenage children, on the cusp of adulthood, and mourns their loss of creativity, despite their good grades. Pretty soon, she’s convinced that she’s the only person who can really care for him and his talent.

Nuanced, beguiling and delicately woven together, The Kindergarten Teacher examines the fine line between nurture and obsession. It acknowledges that people can do awful things for all the right reasons. And, while it looks at this messy grey area where good intentions are completely warped into terrible actions, the film also challenges our own biases. After all, would the story work in the same way if the teacher were male and the child female?

Heart-breaking and beautiful, with a surprising emotional punch for a film so subtly told, Sara Colangelo’s The Kindergarten Teacher is thoughtful and flawless filmmaking that asks questions of its audience but trusts them enough to think about the answers themselves.

Check out our London Film Festival coverage

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