TIFF review: The Kindergarten Teacher

Maggie Gyllenhaal is captivating as an obsessive teacher in this adaptation of an Israeli drama

THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER GALA D: Sara Colangelo. U.S. 97 min. Sep 13, 9:30 pm, Roy Thomson Sep 14, 10 am, Elgin Sep 15, 11 am, Elgin. See listing. Rating: NNN

Writer/director Colangelo adapts Nadav Lapid’s 2014 Israeli drama about a kindergarten teacher who goes too far. Lisa (Maggie Gyllenhaal) moonlights as a wannabe poet when she’s not teaching five-year-olds the alphabet, but her lackluster haikus can’t distract her from her mundane life as a mother to two unappreciative teens. So when she discovers her student Jimmy (Parker Savak) could be a literary prodigy, she takes it upon herself to cultivate his poetic talent.

Gyllenhaal is captivating and believable as an overworked suburban mom, and the chemistry between her and Gael García Bernal as Lisa’s poetry teacher is electric.

But the energy of these two actors isn’t enough to keep tension building in the flabby middle section. The ending, however, is as equally heartbreaking as it is unexpected.

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