A Teacher, much like other films deal that with taboo subject matter, has the unenviable task of balancing the melodramatic aspects of the story as well as a need to justify every character’s motivations. And try though it may, it never seems to elevate itself from the basics of the story and the script moves from point A to point B without much in the way of shock. However, the tale is elevated by some incredibly nuanced acting from Lindsay Burdge and Will Brittain and just enough visual panache to keep the audience satisfied.
The film starts off with Diana (Lindsay Burdge) and Eric (Will Brittain), her student, engaged in an affair. How it started is a mystery, but the passion between the two is strong as they sneak quick kisses when no one is around and text each other to arrange rendezvous. Both seem to be wrapped up in their own world, while still maintaining the appearance of just being a student and a teacher. However, little things begin to chip away at the paradise the two have built and Diana begins to slowly lose her grip on the situation, leading to a shocking conclusion.
Lindsay Burdge is magnificent as Diana, the teacher who slowly unravels from her affair. It’s a role that seems to call for histrionics, but Burdge never over plays the character, revealing bits and pieces of the character’s psychosis as the film goes along. She really dug into the nuances of the role and you completely believe the downward spiral her character has. The star of the show might be Will Brittain, who shows a surprising amount of maturity in his role as the student sleeping with the teacher. Normally characters like this are arrogant pricks, but as Brittain embodies Eric, you can totally tell how he was able to get with the teacher, but doesn’t outwardly boast about it. He can turn on the charm when necessary, but his best scenes are when he’s realizing just how big of an issue the relationship has become.
To that, it must be said that writer/director Hannah Fidell she manages to really ground the characters in realism. The script gives the actors plenty room to explore the various intricacies of the characters, which is good since the narrative surrounding them doesn’t necessarily help them out. There are plenty of instances in the film were we can plainly see what is drawing the characters in their current state, but not nearly enough of the how or why the relationship began. There should have been more attention paid to that aspect, even if we are only tracking the characters in the present day. While it is impressive how Fidell manages to weave in modern aspects of romances like sending naked photos and road head, these feed into stakes that really seemed forced. We are supposed to believe that this teacher is smart enough to carry on a long affair with a student, but would send him a naked photo? It’s 2013, even delusional teachers are smart enough to avoid that trap, or at least briefly considering the consequences.
Ultimately, A Teacher just doesn’t do much in the way of offering new meat to chew on or explore different ground. It’s not a bad film, but the problems more than keep it from excelling.
Tags: A Teacher, film review, Lindsay Burdge, SXSW, sxsw festival, Will Brittain