Maggie Gyllenhaal plays that most popular kind of teacher – the one who cares just a little too much – in the new Netflix original film The Kindergarten Teacher. Written and directed by Sara Colangelo, the story follows Lisa (Gyllenhaal), who spends her days trying to teach toddlers at an upscale New York City school.
Into one of her classes comes Jimmy Roy (Parker Sevak) a bright and talented young boy who Lisa begins to believe could be a truly gifted poet and artist. When she tries to encourage the boy’s parents to give him extra attention she’s rebuffed because of other priorities and commitments. Undeterred – and slightly obsessed – Lisa decides the best course of action is to basically abduct Jimmy Roy and take him to museums, workshops and other events and places to foster his abilities. That, of course, turns out poorly.
Lisa and Jimmy Roy sit on what seems to be train or bus seats on the poster, which reuses one of the movie’s first publicity stills, though in the original photo they’re in an office of some sort without the window behind them. Regardless, the point is to convey that they’re out on their own. Quotes from critics praising the movie are placed toward the top to show how well it was received early on.
In the first trailer we meet Lisa and see that maybe she’s not super-happy being a teacher. When she discovers one of her students seems to have talent in poetry she wants him to participate in a reading event, but his father is unwilling to allow it. She won’t take no for an answer, though, and essentially kidnaps the kid, taking him on an artistic tour and filling his head with dreams of publishing fame.
It all has a very dark edge thanks both to Lisa’s actions and the atonal music that plays over the footage. Gyllenhaal looks wonderful, but that’s not surprising. This is difficult material, as it always is when dealing with child abduction, but we get a sense here that it’s handled as well as possible.
Online and Social
No official website or social profiles I can find, though Netflix did do some promotion of it on their brand channels, especially as it was appearing at festivals.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing I’ve seen, though I would expect some online ads to appear that drive people to the movie’s page on Netflix.
Media and Publicity
Like countless others, the movie debuted at Sundance 2018 to pretty positive reviews and buzz. Still, it wasn’t until a few weeks after the festival ended that Netflix picked it up, having sat out almost entirely any acquisition deals while everyone was in Park City. A bit later, but before any official marketing had started, Gregory Ellewood at The Playlist interviewed Gyllenhaal about how this was one of several projects she had going at the moment.
The movie was announced as one of those screening at the Toronto International Film Festival as well as the opening feature at the Hamptons Film Festival.
Director Sara Colangelo was one of five female directors with Netflix original films coming out in the fall/early winter, something she and the others spoke about here. Meanwhile, while the movie was at Toronto, Gyllenhaal talked about her experiences working with the child actors who played her students and about how the story in many ways shows what happens when a woman feels she’s being marginalized but won’t be ignored.
The actress talked about a wide range of issues in this interview, tying this story into a broader trend of women feeling they’re able to best tell their own stories in a unique and honest way. She’s also been talking about the movie over the last few months in various TV appearances, either specifically because she’s promoting this or as one of several projects she has going right now.
It’s a tough story being sold here, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting or important. Essentially the message being sent in the campaign is that there’s no length an impassioned teacher won’t go to in order to foster the abilities of a truly unique child and make sure they don’t get ground up by the system. That’s both good and, as we see here, sometimes not so great.
Netflix probably could have pulled out more stops, but it’s in the middle of a period with a number of strong original feature releases coming out, so this one got slightly shorter shrift. Still, Gyllenhaal’s performance comes to the forefront and helps sell the audience on a touching, emotional drama.