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Sundance '13 Review: A TEACHER - An Emotional Unraveling

Writer & Director: Hannah Fidell 

Cast: Lindsay Burdge and Will Brittain

Official Synopsis: A young Texas high school teacher's (Lindsay Burdge) affair with one of her teenage students (Will Brittain) begins as a seemingly innocent fling. But as the relationship continues, what started off as somthing simple becomes increasingly complex - and dangerous. Freshmen feather director Hannah Fidell takes us on an emotional roller coaster, as the once-confident teavher's psyche begins to unravel, revealing the warped emotions that drive her to bond - attempt to keep- this unusual relationship.


Lindsay Burdge delivers a delicate and deep performance. Because it's very sparse on dialog, Burdge and newcomer Will Brittain have to communicate a lot of subtext. An example is a small thing, like changing her voice slightly to sound younger on the phone while talking to Brittain. Burdge has a noteworthy emotionally raw postcoital scene that shows the consequences of how a teenage boy reacts to an adult woman having an emotional break down.


The original music by Brian McOmber instantly puts you on edge and perfectly underlines the frantic internal emotions of Burdges. I was puzzled by the choice to end with a song not by McOmber. Why it does not end with more original music or just silence is puzzling and detrimental to the movie.

Story and Direction:

The story of a female teacher sleeping with an underage male student is nothing new. Most times when this type of tale is told it's melodramatic and full of telegraphed punches. A Teacher avoids this with its realistic feel and great cinematography and camera work by Andrew Droz PalermoA Teacher has a few jump cuts which work to great effect, but there are a few slow-mo moments that felt really weird because they had some ghosting strobe-ish effect. There are also some daydream jump cuts that felt oddly placed.

Similar To:

The camera work and tonal feel reminds me of Gus Van Sant's Elephant. Elijah Reyes, another editor at GeekTyrant, says it's got a Take Shelter vibe to it. 

Chances That You'll See It in Theaters: 

A studio might pick this up and give its editing a polish for a small release. More likely you're going to be able to watch it on Netflix.


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