Review: Hannah Fidell’s ‘A Teacher’ doesn’t make the grade

The title character of “A Teacher,” a flimsy episodic feature set in central Texas, is a young woman who’s having an affair with one of her high school students. For anyone who follows the news, it’s a familiar and provocative scenario, but any expectation that writer-director Hannah Fidell will delve beneath the headline shock factor remains unfulfilled. Dangling the threat that the couple will be discovered, the movie feints toward the possibility of scandal and moral reckoning, when its true trajectory concerns a woman’s emotional breakdown.

As the story begins, Diana (Lindsay Burdge) and Eric (Will Brittain) are already trysting wherever they can, her car included. Eric, who has the self-satisfied strut of a popular, well-to-do kid, calls the shots; she’s a blushing girl in his presence. Brittain is an unself-conscious performer, his eyes flashing with annoyance and contempt when Diana’s romantic delusions start to mess up a good thing. In one of the drab-looking film’s few potent visuals, Diana’s unhinged neediness is reflected back at her: Chaperoning a school dance, she finds herself beside Eric’s date at the bathroom mirror.

Glimpses of the relationship’s dynamics can’t overcome the missing sense of how these two first connected, an increasingly problematic void at the movie’s core. Even as Burdge conveys Diana’s growing isolation, Fidell blurs the portrait, hinting at a troubled past and leaning on Brian McOmber’s score to express the teacher’s pain. However fine the cacophonous music, when it’s set against a narrative that generates no dramatic heat or rhythm, it feels like hyperbole.



“A Teacher”

MPAA rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Playing: Laemmle’s Royal, West Los Angeles. Also on VOD