A Teacher


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Lindsay Burdge in A Teacher
"As the teacher, Lindsay Burdge gives a stunning performance."

In a bar, she laughs and blushes, hiding a text message from her friends.

"Where did you meet him?" they ask, leaping to the obvious conclusion.

Copy picture

"At school."

Her shyness, her awkwardness, could easily be those of a schoolgirl, and perhaps that's how she thinks of herself, this teacher whose friends assume she's talking about a visitor or colleague. But the object of her passion is one of her students.

In stepping outside the too-comfortable convention of older men getting involved with teenage girls, this deceptively thoughtful film forces viewers to reconsider ideas around gendered behaviour, consent and child abuse, avoiding simple condemnation in favour of exploring what the problems with a situation like this actually are. It has gone on for some months, we are told, and at first the odd couple look very happy together, comfortable with each other, at ease with the challenges their situation presents. But it doesn't take a great deal of maturity to handle a relationship that's going well. When signs of strain appear, the gulf between the two of them becomes starkly visible - not a new thing but the inescapable acknowledgement of something that has been there all along.

Although it contains its fair share of erotic scenes, taking this sensuality for granted allows the film to focus its drama elsewhere. It's one thing to be confidently sexual at a young age, another to enter into an emotional relationship with a troubled adult. They both declare their love almost casually, as a thing that has come to be taken for granted between them, but it's clear that it means something very different to each of them. Ultimately, the boy knows that his life is full of opportunities. The teacher, despite her friendships and her worried flatmate, feels isolated, desperate, her whole existence bound up in this relationship. One is reminded of Hester in The Deep Blue Sea, explaining that her beloved is the whole of life.

Such obsession damages people, makes them dangerous. This would be a difficult situation even for an adult to handle.

There are no real narrative surprises here, but such would be beside the point. It is the ordinariness of the situation that gives it its potency. As the teacher, Lindsay Burdge gives a stunning performance. It's easy to feel for her, to regard her manipulation as a product of desperation, yet throughout we are aware that she could have chosen to avoid this situation at the outset - that as an adult, she could anticipate problems that the boy could not. He's played by Will Brittain, looking just a little too old for the role, but perhaps that's intentional. His is not a strong performance but he convinces well enough. His relative lack of charisma makes the power imbalance between the two all the clearer, even as the teacher starts to lose control.

Ending with a powerful solo scene for Burdge set to music which, in the circumstances, is as dark as it is heartbreaking, this is a remarkable little film about the complicated realities that border our carefully categorised world. It should not be overlooked.

Reviewed on: 06 Dec 2013
Share this with others on...
A Teacher packshot
A teacher has an affair with one of her pupils.

Director: Hannah Fidell

Writer: Hannah Fidell

Starring: Lindsay Burdge, Will Brittain, Jennifer Prediger, Jonny Mars, Julie Phillips, Chris Dubeck

Year: 2013

Runtime: 75 minutes

Country: US

Search database:

If you like this, try: