Hannah Fidell’s “A Teacher,” opening in limited release this week, is exactly the kind of movie I love to discover at film festivals: small, low-budget, without famous faces – but with a strong dramatic vision and the intelligence to carry it out with minimal resources.
It seems like a familiar story: a teacher who has an affair with a high school student. It’s the kind of thing some people (ok, men) treat as a smutty joke: Whoa, wish I’d had a teacher like that.
But Fidell offers a realistic look at the stakes, the emotions and the psychological toll of this kind of relationship. This is not a sensational film – indeed, it’s a quiet, increasingly tense tale about one woman slowly coming unraveled.
Her name is Diana Watts and, as played by Lindsay Burdge, she’s a high-school teacher in Austin, Texas. There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about her – until it becomes apparent that the football star in her class is also secretly her lover.
She has a roommate who’s constantly trying to fix her up with guys, but she finds reasons to avoid the connections. Diana is happy with the secret nature of the relationship, figuring that, before long, he’ll be off to college and they can figure it out from there.
But little things start to creep in, to make her worry about being discovered. That is the first drop of poison in the relationship, but it’s enough.
This review continues on my website.