Hannah Fidell shows considerable level of talent and proficiency as a director in her debut feature film A Teacher through her uncanny ability to carry the entire 75 minute long film solely on the merit of her superb storytelling considering how superfluous the story itself ends up being, let alone the lackluster of an ending. After sitting through a slow burning story such as this, it’s frustrating to reach the end of the movie only to realize that it has very little to offer when it comes to catharsis. The ending is so anti-climactic that it even manages to make the entire movie feel a bit pointless in hindsight, due to offering so little tangible content in terms of the relationship between the teacher and her student. You never get to know the characters that intimately let alone begin to care about them or their secret affair, so even the teacher’s eventual meltdown fails to leave an impression. Granted, the ending is a realistic take of how things could go in this kind of a situation, but it does not make for a very gratifying story conclusion, which is one of the biggest issue for why the ending doesn’t work for me at all. You kinda expect something dramatic to happen as a climax, to cap the story off, or at the very least get a small eye opening reveal about the characters or the affair but you don’t get that. Fidell simply does not seem to have had much of anything to say about the illicit relationship between the teacher and her student, let alone anything else for that matter.
Even if you argued that the point of the movie actually was to realistically follow the teacher’s infatuation with the boy rather than say anything about the affair itself, the movie’s ending fails in that regard by not going deep enough with the subject. You never get to know the teacher thanks to the reserved use of dialog (ironically this is actually one of the strongest points of the movie, it creates a very alluring atmosphere for the film) so you are left mostly in the dark as to her inner thoughts. You never get any type of real insight to her psyche, such as what brought about her initial infatuation to her student, has this happened before, etc. let alone any sort of development that would feel naturally to turn the attraction (or if you prefer, love) into a self destructive obsession. She is depicted to act clingy and mopey and a bit juvenile, but it never seems to build into revealing anything particular personal about her, beyond being very removed from other people her own age. There is a very brief allusion of family trouble in her past, but it’s very halfhearted and feels very hollow. I don’t know, maybe I missed all the nuances that would make the movie more wholesome, but to me the story just ends up feeling unfinished.
As an addendum, this is apparently going to be turned into a HBO show, so perhaps the format change could lead to more mileage from the story than what we got here due to the time and space to develop the relationship further. The movie isn’t bad, just lacking, so a serialized format could very well fix all the problems..