Film Review

HANNAH FIDELL’S A TEACHER — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Hannah Fidell’s piercing and provocative teacher-student, psychological-sexual thriller A Teacher is a forceful and stylish writing and directing debut. Taking an observational, sometimes clinical approach to an illicit (by the standards of modern society…) affair between a late 30’s high school English teacher and her 17 year old male student, Fidell has managed to craft a uniquely suspenseful tale of obsession and lust, while never forgetting to showcase the mental ramifications that a mismatched pair like this would eventually face. This is a slow-burn, 75 minute showcase for lead actress Lindsay Burge, who appears in nearly every scene, giving nothing less than an intensely powerful performance as the older woman who knows better but simply can’t help herself. When the film opens, the lovebirds are already in full swing, and I loved how Fidell just dropped the audience into the middle of the situation without a ton of easy to identify context. We’re off to the races from scene one, as the film spotlights any number of steamy and erotic sexual trysts between Burge and Will Brittain, the well-cast younger man who has the challenging role of a high school senior caught between his hormonal desires and his apathy. Things become very heated towards the final act, with a whammy of a final shot that refuses to soften any of the previously displayed hard edges; this is a work made by a filmmaker who wants her characters to feel something, be it pain, joy, anguish, or surprise. The visuals have a lightly heightened quality to them as cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo aims to put you in the headspace of Burge, who etches such a believable portrait of woman spiraling out of control that you can’t help but empathize with her, even if there’s some part of you that feels that what she’s doing is wrong. Raising interesting questions of morals and responsibility while never overly judging the characters, Fidell has whipped up a strong and serious work that seems to have flown over the heads of most critics and under the radars of most viewers. This is a good one.

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