Film Reviews: Leading minds into murky ethical waters

THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER (12A)

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 05 March, 2019, 10:04
The Kindergarten Teacher. Picture PA.

A shepherdess of impressionable young minds leads us into murky ethical waters in director Sara Colangelo's gripping English-language remake of the Israeli film of the same title.

Reset to Staten Island, The Kindergarten Teacher is a deeply unsettling psychological drama which pivots deliciously on a fearless lead performance from Maggie Gyllenhaal as the titular educator, whose obsession with a five-year-old pupil (Parker Sevak) warps her instinct to nurture. Colangelo's script invites Gyllenhaal to walk a tightrope between predator and misguided protector, which she accomplishes with dizzying aplomb. She teases the ambiguities of her flawed character and these subtle shifts in tone and intent steadily crank up tension until our knuckles glow white with fear. Gyllenhaal burrows deep beneath the skin of her anti-heroine and we find ourselves ricocheting at speed between pity and disgust as she enacts her plan.

EVERYBODY KNOWS (15)

Everybody knows fragments of the truth in Asghar Farhadi's slow-burning thriller but piecing together this mosaic of desire and regret across the class divide is another matter entirely.

Set against the backdrop of a family wedding with a full complement of underlying tensions, Everybody Knows orchestrates the abduction of a teenager then sows seeds of mistrust between guests as the clock ticks down on a ransom demand. Farhadi's picture promises more than it ultimately delivers but the writer-director confidently holds our attention for more than two hours as his slippery plot uncoils. He conjures a vivid sense of community and relishes the opportunity to test the ties that bind friends and neighbours on the sleepy outskirts of Madrid. Penelope Cruz is luminous as a wife on the verge of a nervous breakdown, whose primary concern is her imperilled flesh and blood.