The Kindergarten Teacher is a compelling and wonderfully acted remake of Nadav Lapid's 2015 Israeli drama about an unhappy teacher who has been desperately trying to inspire her students to find pleasure in the arts. But after 20 years of encouragement and inspiration, they evidence little or no interest in curiosity, imagination, or out-of-the box creativity.
Trying to water her own poetic instincts, Lisa (Maggie Gyllenhaal) attends an evening writing class and after having her poem criticized by the instructor (Gael Garcia BernaI), she listens to an emotionally rich work. The poet, to her amazement, is Jimmy (Parker Sevak) who is only five-and-one-half-years old; he is looked after by a youthful nanny and ignored by his parents are wrapped up in their careers.
Lisa's marriage has gone dry and others around her have no interest in the imaginative life, so she takes Jimmy on as her prodigy, making several bad decisions along the way. She keeps pressuring the boy for new poems and then begins meeting with him privately when the rest of her class is napping. It isn't long before this woman is obsessing about Jimmy and trying to take control of his life and poetry.
Sara Colangelo orchestrates this character-driven drama with great sensitivity. Maggie Gyllenhaal (Secretary) delivers a subtle and appealing performance which conveys all the yearning in Lisa's dreams and her genuine fears about a nation that seems indifferent to inspiring children to come to a deeper appreciation of poetry, essays, fiction, music, and dance.
It has been our pleasure to watch some very impressive films over the past two years about the sacred dimensions of unconventional female journeys: Kelly Macdonald in Puzzle, Rosamund Pike in A Private War, Charlize Theron in Tully, Catherine Ford in The Midwife, and Carry Mulligan in Wildlife. The Kindergarten Teacher is another film in this vein.