When you think of kindergarten teachers, you probably think of soft-voiced, patient people who live to help young minds develop. Maybe you think of the songs your own kindergarten teacher taught you, or of finger painting and recess. If so, brace yourself because Maggie Gyllenhaal is taking things in a completely different direction in her new Netflix movie The Kindergarten Teacher.
The movie, which is based on a 2015 Israeli film of the same name, follows a woman who becomes obsessed with a student who may be gifted. She encourages him despite the wishes of his parents and, per the trailer, she goes so far as to kidnap him — all in the name of nurturing his talent as a poet.
What drives her is that she, herself, wishes to be a poet. As Netflix writes in the movie's description, "She takes an evening poetry class but, despite her best efforts, her work is mediocre." One doesn't have to be great to know greatness when they come across it (just ask non-sculptor who has looked at Michaelangelo's David), and Gyllenhaal's Staten Island school teacher character, Lisa Spinelli, decides the greatness within this child is worth doing anything to protect. Her obsession with the child is both inappropriate and riveting; it's hard to tear your eyes away from the trailer. Just when you think she's reached a line that cannot be crossed, the character runs across it with total abandon.
At Sundance, where the film won the US Dramatic Directing Award, Gyllenhaal told Marie Claire that the "pain and shock" of Trump's election was part of her process in creating this character, calling it a "wake up call" to the inequality in society that existed even before the election happened. "I’ve played a lot of women who you meet right as they can’t go on any longer in the way they were — they have to wake up, and the audience watches the different ways that they do so," Gyllenhaal said. "That’s really interesting to me and true here for Lisa, except the ways she chooses are really off track."
The Kindergarten Teacher arrives on Netflix on October 12, 2018. Watch the trailer, below.