The Kindergarten Teacher revolves around its titular character, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, whose dreams of being a poet drive her to nearly criminal lengths when she overhears a student reciting a poem out of the blue and decides that he must be gifted.
Gyllenhaal plays Lisa Spinelli, an arts and language teacher. Motivated by her own stalled artistic aspirations (and perhaps a crush on her doe-eyed colleague, played by Gael García Bernal), Spinelli clings to a 5-year-old student who she believes has a knack for poetry and passes his work off as her own. Over time, Spinelli appears to cross the line more and more with the young boy: cornering him in bathrooms, lecturing him about the world, and at one point, maybe kidnapping (???) him, after his parents reject her offer to help elevate his poetic career. (The boy’s 5!)
The trailer gets very intense and it purposefully leaves a lot of gaps in our knowledge of these characters. But Gyllenhaal’s chilling and unsettling performance still makes make me want to see this. “Maggie wanted to give this woman an inner life, as did I, and we really sat down and talked about her backstory, and the sort of bizarre and complicated mission that she was on,” writer-director Sara Colangelo told Vanity Fair. “We decided we should let her be unlikable at moments, and intense and cringeworthy at times.”
The Kindergarten Teacher premiered at Sundance and will stream on Netflix October 12.