The Kindergarten Teacher Blu-ray Review
Shame we didn't get THIS on Netflix UK
The Kindergarten Teacher Film Review
That rare remake of a foreign movie which nails the story, The Kindergarten Teacher rides high on Maggie Glyllenhaal's lead performance.The award-winning 2014 Israeli film of the same name was an unsurprising candidate for a remake but what is perhaps surprising is that young Sara Colangelo's sophomore directorial effort is such an assured reworking of the core story, affording some considerably thoughtful weight to the sensitive subject, twinged with dramatic worth and contemplative tragedy.
It's a simple enough premise: primary school teacher Lisa notices one of her charges, the 5 year old Jimmy, spontaneously spouting out poetry which he has made up, and considers that he may be a child prodigy. However, Jimmy's home life is hardly stable - the mother gone and the father a busy and rich nightclub owner, Jimmy is taken care of by a succession of dancers from his father's club, and Lisa can't find anybody to pay attention to this genius in the making, instead taking it on herself to try and nurture him and get his work out to the larger world, initially by presenting it at her own at a poetry club. Will anybody else be able to hear the little voice that Lisa has discovered?
A real tour de force performance from Maggie Gyllenhaal
At times almost a one-woman show, this is a real tour de force performance from Maggie Gyllenhaal, who has never been one to shy away from intense characters and really commits to her path here. Her portrayal isn't quite sympathetic - even if you can understand her frustration, her choices are dangerously obsessive - but the story is brimming with tragedy, making you at least wonder what would / could / should have been done under these circumstances.
Colangelo offers an impassive, almost documentary, view of the ensuing drama, enjoying the claustrophobia afforded by some ill-advised situations where Lisa steals Jimmy away from where he should be, whether for a few minutes or a few hours, and affording a painful view of the impact upon her relationships with both her poetry class teacher (who thinks she is the genius) and her own husband, as well as her ambivalent teenage children who just offer salt to the wound that is a life she perceives to be utterly unfulfilled. It's a tough watch, mounting in intensity with every scene, but commendable for both its reflective subject matter and its committed lead performance.
The Kindergarten Teacher Blu-ray PictureAlthough it secured a Netflix release in several territories, unfortunately, the UK was not one, and whilst this meant a short theatrical run for the movie, ultimately it would have proven a real gem on the platform. Thunderbird Releasing now brings the superb drama to UK Region B-locked Blu-ray complete with a largely excellent 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen.
A largely excellent video presentation
Although at times it feels like a fly-on-the-wall documentary, there's a slight blue-dominant streak to the colour scheme, raising the contrast so that some of the tones pop with more intensity. Still, detail is excellent, picking up on skin textures and hair, as well as clothing weaves and background nuances, particularly in the busy classroom area. Clarity is strong throughout, with little noticeable softness, and some impressive cinematography despite the low-key feel to the piece. Black levels remain strong, wavering only slightly in the bar sequence, but holding strong in the nightclub scene, despite the neon opportunity for crush.
The Kindergarten Teacher Blu-ray SoundA solid aural accompaniment
The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is comfortable enough to leave vast swathes of the drama utterly unaccompanied by scoring, instead affording razor-sharp focus on the increasingly intense relationship between teacher and student which, as noted, sometimes takes on an almost documentary style. Nonetheless, there's a wonderfully evocative classical score that comes into play between these sequences, channelling palpable emotion and tragedy, and given keen prioritisation across the array. The rest affords strong regard for the adult dialogue, although Jimmy's poetic musings are - perhaps intentionally - rather mumbled; something which can get a little frustrating. Background effects enjoy the busy streets, bars, boats and clubs, rounding out a solid aural accompaniment.
The Kindergarten Teacher Blu-ray ExtrasAlthough there's only an Interview, it's a hefty hour-long affair with star Maggie Glyllenhaal
The Kindergarten Teacher Blu-ray VerdictA tough watch, mounting in intensity with every scene, but commendable for both its reflective subject matter and its committed lead performance
The Kindergarten Teacher would have been an absolute gem on Netflix UK, and whilst it is admirable that it instead secured not only a Big Screen release, but also a Blu-ray home release, it's easy to see how it may have reached a broader audience on the streaming platform (as was the case Stateside). Nonetheless, if you're not prepared to wait for the UK to get it (presumably within the next few months), then this Blu-ray release offers it up with excellent video, strong audio and a decent extra feature. The film itself is a hard but worthy watch.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £15.00
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