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A Teacher

sxswfilm2013SXSW 2013 Film Review


Director/Screenwriter: Hannah Fidell

A popular high school teacher in Austin, Texas has an affair with one of her students. Her life begins to unravel as the relationship comes to an end.

Cast: Lindsay Burdge, Will Brittain, Jennifer Prediger, Julie Dell Phillips, Jonny mars, Chris Doubek (film synopsis from sxsw.com)

WHO’S IT FOR?: People who aren't named Mary Kay Letourneau and like their indie dramas dark, moody and a bit risque.


Student/teacher romantic relationships are tough cinematic ships to navigate especially when involving underage teens. We all know how this will end and it won't be good for either party. Writer-director Hannah Fidell attempts to explore some risky territory with A Teacher but ends up simply teasing us with a promising yet unfulfilled experience.

The film begins with the affair between high school teacher Diana (Burdge) and student Eric (Brittain) already in full bloom. It's not until midway through the movie where the dangerous sense of misconduct is felt, thus most of the first half is dominated by sex and lots of fawning over one another. The screenplay feels incredibly thin on plot and characters exemplified by a far too short runtime of 75 minutes. We hardly get to know these characters and this situation before the final credits roll.

Luckily, Burdge's lead performance stuns with enough sincere emotion that you'll forget that the barely strung together story doesn't do much to help. Diana is a tough role that requires a complete psychological transformation from beginning to end and Burdge excels at displaying the overwhelming nature of the situation. Unfortunately we're given merely a glimpse into a more damaged psyche shown through subplots involving an estranged brother and panic attacks that are never adequately explained or resolved.

The film is consistently hurt by missed opportunities both narratively and thematically. Fidell briefly explores the interesting role reversal between Diana and Eric wherein the teacher has all the power in the classroom but in the relationship the student holds all of the cards. It's fascinating to think about from a social and sexual perspective but nothing of consequence ever really manifests from it. A Teacher has lots of ambition and a great concept but has no real idea of how to execute it properly.

Technically speaking, the film looks gorgeous filled with beautiful, naturally lit scenes that showcase both the intimate excursions and the Texas landscape. The score is discordant and moody playing into the general uneasiness that builds from scene to scene. A Teacher certainly isn't bad but rather a perfectly adequate, if flawed, indie drama that tries so hard to show you something interesting, that it forgets it also needs to say something interesting as well.


Tyler Mager currently reviews movies for CollegeMovieReview.com and comics for Gutters and Panels. He's also an aspiring screenwriter and filmmaker based out of Austin, TX. Follow him on twitter @tylermager.

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