A Woman's Obsession in 'The Kindergarten Teacher' (No Spoilers)

Maggie Gyllenhaal in 'The Kindergarten Teacher'

The Kindergarten Teacher stars Maggie Gyllenhaal who plays Lisa Spinelli, a suburban working mother who doesn’t seem to be a woman who is in need of affection from another child. As a kindergarten teacher, the kids do inspire her, much more so than her own two teenage kids.

She becomes close to one of her students, Jimmy (Parker Sevak) who she believes to be a poetic prodigy, even so far as referring to him as a “young Mozart.” As I watch her fully supporting Jimmy to dive in to his gift and never fear to express himself, there is a part of Lisa that begins to unravel before our eyes. Lisa’s mentoring becomes to border on the line of obsession, something a teacher must always be wary of when it comes to having a relationship with a student. 

The Kindergarten Teacher is actually a remake of the 2014 Israeli film by director Nadav Lapid. The American version is directed by Sara Colangelo who received the U.S. Dramatic Directing Award at Sundance Film Festival. Whereas in the original film, the director focused on man’s competitive nature with art in society, Colangelo’s adaptation took to a woman who lost direction of where her own art belongs within society. Colangelo made sure to give a woman’s point of view on the value of art and education in America. 

'The Kindergarten Teacher' directed by Sara Colangelo
Wolf & Badger US
A woman's obsession in 'The Kindergarten Teacher' // DNAMAG

Jimmy does not have a mother in his life and is being raised by a busy full-time working father, who for some reason feels it to be alright for his son to spend after school time with his teacher. Yes, at first there is a specific arrangement that since Jimmy is without proper adult weekday supervision that Lisa was more than happy to step in and pretty much babysit after school. Yet, Lisa starts to be more engaged with Jimmy by bringing him to museums and engaging him into culture, anything to potentially boost the young boy’s gift for poems. Then, I begin to wonder if Jimmy represents to Lisa the craft that she wishes she had and the artistic world that she yearns to belong to?

Lisa even goes so far as to taking Jimmy into downtown Manhattan to a poetry reading on The Bowery. This is where the thrill of the take begins for Lisa, as she exposes Jimmy to very adult scenery while his father having no knowledge of it. You start to sense danger in Lisa’s feelings for young Jimmy. He is a little boy, she is an adult, a mother, a wife and should very well know better. Perhaps Lisa was once an artist, and now is a mother and wife craving acceptance with enough talent to still be a worthy artist. That’s one of the questions I grappled with during the film. Although, she does care an awful lot for Jimmy and his artistic potential. A woman starving for attention and inspiration finds it in a boy, which is when she begins to take major risks.