SXSW 2013: “A Teacher” – Review by Big Gabe

ATeacher- head pic

A Teacher movie review

by Gabriel “Big Gabe” Alcantara

Directed by Hannah Fidell

Starring: Lindsay Burdge and William Brittain


And you thought Cameron Diaz was a bad teacher.

As I said in my Mud review, I went into most of the films shown at SXSW blindly. I didn’t research them, never heard of them, I just went along with my friend, Scott “MovieMan” Menzel. On the second day of the festival, he chose a film called A Teacher. So I’m thinking it’s probably another inspiration film about a teacher who teaches inner city kids, makes their lives better. Or maybe it’s about a teacher in some third world country who educates poor kids in some rundown, bullet ridden slum. Either way, I was hoping to be inspired, maybe learn something as well.

Well, um… here’s how it goes. The film, which takes place in Austin, Texas which is fitting since that’s where the festival is held, opens with an overbearing score which screams “arthouse flick”. We see an attractive, seemingly thirty-something year old woman (her age is never mentioned or at least I didn’t catch it) named Diane Watts (Lindsay Burdge) going about her daily routine. She goes on her morning jog, drives to work drinking coffee, then gives a lecture in her classroom to her students. One of her more outspoken students, Eric Till (Will Brittain), becomes the center of attention by cracking jokes. The day continues until we come to a scene at night where Diane is parked on some random street, waiting in her car. Eric drives up, parks his car across the street, walks over to Diane’s car and the next thing you know it: “BOW CHICKA WOW WOW!”

So it’s that type of film, huh? Another story about a teacher getting it on with her under-aged student. Kind of like Notes on a Scandal with Cate Blanchett or like about a hundred of actual news stories that have been reported in the last decade. Okay, but does this story have anything of value to add to that topic? No, not really. A Teacher focuses entirely on Diane and the problem with the film is it tries to be clever by only hinting on issues that affect her life. I’m not the type of viewer that needs to be spoon fed information but the lack of a back story on this character comes off as lazy. There is an early scene where she meets up with her brother at a restaurant and the scene plays out like this:

Brother: How are you? It’s been a while. So good to see you.

Diane: Oh, I’m fine.

(Akward silence)

Brother: So mom’s been asking about you.

Diane: You know what? I can’t do this. No, I can’t do this. (walks away)

(End of scene)

Me: Oh… kay.

Now right there, I know she has some sort of issue with her mother and quite possibly the family in general. Maybe she was neglected by her mother, maybe she was a victim of abuse, maybe she is a former crack addict… I don’t know at this point but maybe I’ll find out later… Nope, never happens. None of her issues are ever revealed. And because of that, I can’t sympathize with her.

Throughout whole film, she carries on with the affair. She’s quite satisfied with the sex she has with Eric but she is paranoid that they’ll be caught. Could it be because IT’S WRONG? Duh! At one point, she tries to end the affair. Shortly afterwards, she begins to obsess over him. But why? Does she actually love him or does she just love getting boned by him? I honestly couldn’t answer that. I had no idea what was going through her head and to be quite honest, I didn’t give a shit.

That’s my honest feeling towards this film. I couldn’t care less about the story or the characters. There wasn’t enough reason for me to care. Diane was a grown woman, she knew between right and wrong. Eric was just a young, naive man looking to get laid, I can’t blame him. So what? Why should I care?

This is not a bad film, it’s just one of those films that’s just… there. The acting is fine. The actors do what they have to do with what little is written for them to do. The film is shot well, the editing was alright. The 75 minute long film just kind of drags along and never really gives a satisfying conclusion. In fact, it pretty much ends the way you’d expect it to. The direction by Hannah Fidell is commendable and I believe she has enough talent to direct better films in the future but the writing of this film is weak and although it touches of themes like mental instability, I just didn’t care. The film didn’t interest me at any point.

After the screening of the film, Scott (who dosed off during the film) and I stuck around for the Q&A. The director, the cast and crew struggled to explain and defend this film. It’s almost as if they were disappointed with the final product or just couldn’t quite put their fingers on what type of film they made. A Teacher honestly has nothing new to offer. It’s quite dull and will leave you asking too many questions or you just might not give a shit like me. Either way, it’ll have a limited theatrical release later this year as well as a Video-On-Demand release, so you can judge the film for yourself.

My Score: 2 outta 5 (We Live Film Score: 4 out of 10)

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