In the first 15 minutes of The Kindergarten Teacher, one of Lisa Spinelli’s (Maggie Gylenhall) poems is described as derivative. Ironically, that is one of the words I would use to describe this film.
Lisa Spinelli is a Kindergarten teacher who is bored of her life. Her kids are growing up with no creativity, her poetry in her evening class is lame, her job is boring. She feels lost and isolated. This is until she hears five year old student Jimmy murmur a poem.
Anna is beautiful. Beautiful enough for me. The sun hits her yellow house. It’s almost like a sign from God.Anna
From here, she starts to claim his work as her own in her poetry class, with rave reviews. Lisa builds up a connection with poetry teacher Simon. She tries to record more of Jimmy’s poems, teaching him ideas such as perspective. Soon, she starts trying to get his father to support his poetry.
Then Lisa starts to go overboard: Giving Jimmy her phone number, becoming his afternoon carer, taking him to poetry events against his father’s will and more…
A simple verse
The big problem with the Kindergarten Teacher is how predictable it all feels. Lisa’s relationships with her family and Simon are obvious. You know what is going to happen next with Jimmy as well. The film tries to shock you but fails to as it takes a predictable path. The biggest shock I had today was that I’ve spelt “Kindergarden” incorrectly all my life.
So, what could the film have done differently? Well, it was lacking in dynamic characters around Lisa and Jimmy. Jimmy obviously had parental problems at home, but you only see the dad for 3 minutes. Jimmy’s uncle is an author, but doesn’t show up. The poetry teacher Simon is a shallow plot point and Lisa’s family are untouched. The movie feels one dimensional.
The child is a passenger, like a six year old would be. He isn’t aware of what is going on, but his uncomfortableness is portrayed well. Maggie Gylenhall’s performance is solid and understated. Essentially, this film does the bare bones correctly, but fails to add anything to make it great.
The film is basic
It doesn't challenge itself
It could be much more
– This film is currently available on Netflix US & Canada, so if you are in that location or use a VPN (I am not endorsing this), it can be viewed for free. Otherwise, you might be able to catch it in the cinema.