There is a desperate need for unique storytelling to make a comeback in cinema. In this modern age movie goers are drowning in Superhero films and Disney remakes and it is leaving many of us gasping for fresh air. This week I got to take a deep breath for the first time in a while when I finally watched Sara Colangelo’s The Kindergarten Teacher.
On my list for the Sydney Film Festival this year multiple scheduling conflicts meant that I just never got to see it. However now it is available to view on DVD, and I think American Netflix. So I sat myself down, ordered some take away, and got ready to be told the story of a Kindergarten teachers desperate efforts to nurture the talent of a 5 year old poet prodigy.
Based on an Israeli film of the same name the premise itself was unique enough to spark my interest, but the way the films plot develops over time just pulls you deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole than I ever thought such a wholesome sounding synopsis ever would. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s performance as Lisa Spinelli is so captivating throughout that even though the things she does made me feel uncomfortable at times, I couldn’t help but feel a connection to her. Her complex levels of vulnerability, her passion for all things creative, and her moments of self doubt meant that even when she ventured into the land of obsession she was still very human and therefore relatable.
The film is also absolutely beautiful both in the cinematography and the production and costume design. Everything is so soft and calm that the moral ambiguity of Lisa’s actions is allowed to thrive because the film never directly states that you should be alarmed. There are many layers to what Lisa’s character does that slowly build up on top of each other until something that on the surface appeared as encouragement soon becomes tainted with over-protectiveness and even selfish validation for her own creativity. These psychological nuances in the script are well executed through Colangelo’s direction.
I loved having to wrestle with myself around the grey area with which the films story resides. Being a creative soul myself I can appreciate how often talents in the arts are overlooked in favour of athletic hobbies, particularly in younger children, and particularly in boys. Yet the ways in which she was attempting to nurture said talent were beyond anything that we would in normal society consider appropriate. This kind of moral dilemma was such a refreshing experience to have in a film that is still very easy to watch. A lot of films that go down the psychological route can often be heavy or convoluted but this was very light whilst still maintaining a level of complexity.
When I talk about the fact that we need more films with female leads that tell uniquely female stories, The Kindergarten Teacher is a perfect example of what I mean. It’s not a gender bend of an already established character, it’s different to the stories we see all the time, and features a complex female character. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this film and would recommend it to any film viewer who also need to come up for air.