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‘The Kindergarten Teacher’ Trailer: Maggie Gyllenhaal Gets Too Invested in a Child Prodigy

Posted on Thursday, August 9th, 2018 by Ethan Anderton

After playing the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, Netflix is bringing unnerving psychological thriller The Kindergarten Teacher to audiences, and the first trailer has just arrived to tease the remake of writer/director Nadav Lapid’s acclaimed Israeli film of the same name. Watch it below.

The Kindergarten Teacher Trailer

The Kindergarten Teacher follows Maggie Gyllenhaal as the titular instructor named Lisa Spinelli, a woman desperate for her life to feel significant again as her work in the classroom is anything but inspiring, and her family life leaves something to be desired too. She tries to take solace in a poetry class at night, but she’s discouraged by her lack of skill.

However, she finds a light to hold onto when one of her kindergarten students (Parker Sevak) shows a knack for creating beautiful poetry off the top of his head. With the student’s parents and caretaker oblivious to his talents, Lisa takes it upon herself to hone his skills. But the lengths to which she’s willing to go to spotlight the student’s talents takes a questionable turn.

This is one of those thrillers that slowly creeps up on you and makes you feel so uneasy and uncomfortable because it’s the kind of story that isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Plus, Maggie Gyllenhaal does such an incredible job at playing a woman who is desperate, likeable and misguided all at the same time. It’s easily one of her best performances.

Sara Colangelo directs from a script she wrote herself, and the rest of the cast includes Anna Baryshnikov, Rosa Salazar, Michael Chernus and Gael Garcia Bernal. If you’d like to know more, check out our review from the Sundance Film Festival.

Lisa Spinelli (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a kindergarten teacher in Staten Island who yearns to live a life of art and intellectualism. She takes an evening poetry class but, despite her best efforts, her work is mediocre. When she overhears Jimmy (Parker Sevak), one of her five-year-old students, reciting an original poem in her classroom, she is floored. Convinced he is the equivalent of a young Mozart, she becomes obsessed with the child and embarks on a dangerous journey to nurture his talent. As Lisa continues down this increasingly desperate path, she seems ready to throw away everything to chase an impossible dream.

The Kindergarten Teacher hits Netflix on October 12, 2018, but it will also have a limited theatrical release.

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Lisa Spinelli is a Staten Island teacher who is unusually devoted to her students. When she discovers one of her five-year-olds is a prodigy, she becomes fascinated with the boy, ultimately risking her family and freedom to nurture his talent.

Characters : Lisa Spinelli

Actor : Maggie Gyllenhaal

Characters : Jimmy Roy

Actor : Parker Sevak

Characters :

Actor : Anna Baryshnikov

Characters :

Actor : Rosa Salazar

Characters :

Actor : Michael Chernus

Characters : Grant Spinelli

Actor : Gael García Bernal

Characters :

Actor : Daisy Tahan

Characters :

Actor : Ajay Naidu

Characters : Simon

Actor : Samrat Chakrabarti

Characters : Brittany

Actor : Haley Murphy

Characters : Krystal

Actor : Stefaniya Makarova

Characters : Josh Spinelli

Actor : Sam Jules

Characters : Justin

Actor : Ato Blankson-Wood

Characters : Michael

Actor : Carson Grant

Characters : Mr. Bishop

Actor : Clark Carmichael

Characters : Officer Marshall

Actor : Aamira Martinez

Characters : Officer Lugo

Actor : Douglas Taurel

Characters : Poet

Actor : Nikhil Melnechuk

Characters : Poet

Actor : McManus Woodend

Characters : Marianne

Actor : Libya Pugh

Characters : Poet

Actor : Ashley August

Characters : Kindergarten child

Actor : Avery Ilardi

Characters : Gloria

Actor : Kea Trevett

Characters : Kindergarten student

Actor : Avishai Greenberg

Characters : Kindergarten child

Actor : Donovan Pierre Coleman

Characters : Daisy’s Friend

Actor : Gianna Jean

Characters : Man at the Bowery

Actor : Shyaporn Theerakulstit

Characters : London

Actor : London Valentine

Name : Sara Colangelo

As Writing / Screenplay

Name : Sara Colangelo

As Directing / Director

Name : Maggie Gyllenhaal

As Production / Producer

Name : Osnat Handelsman-Keren

As Production / Producer

Name : Trudie Styler

As Production / Producer

Name : Talia Kleinhendler

As Production / Producer

Name : Celine Rattray

As Production / Producer

Name : Nadav Lapid

As Writing / Writer

Name : Pepe Avila del Pino

As Camera / Director of Photography

Name : Stephanie Holbrook

As Production / Casting

Name : Marc Vives

As Editing / Editor

Name : Lee Percy

As Editing / Editor

Name : Mary Lena Colston

As Art / Production Design

Name : Melanie Merrill

As Art / Art Direction

Name : Vanessa Porter

As Costume & Make-Up / Costume Design

Name : Gwen Roach

As Art / Set Decoration

Name : Zachery Ty Bryan

As Production / Executive Producer

Name : Ivy Ermert

As Costume & Make-Up / Makeup Department Head

‘The Kindergarten Teacher’ To Open Hamptons Film Festival

Films by three female alumni of the Hamptons Film Festival’s screenwriters lab have been confirmed for the lineup of the festival’s 26th annual edition in October. They include Sara Colangelo’s The Kindergarden Teacher, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, which will open the 26th edition in October.

“Dead Pigs”

Other alums with films in the initial lineup unveiled today include a pair of pics that premiered this year at Sundance: Ísold Uggadóttir’s And Breathe Normally and Cathy Yan’s Dead Pigs. Yan was also the first recipient of support from the Melissa Mathison Fund, ​which supports female writers.

The festival, to be held this year over Columbus Day weekend October 4-8, also confirmed slots for the Oscar Wilde biopic The Happy Prince, starring Rupert Everett, Colin Firth and Emily Watson, which will screen in the fest’s Spotlight section; and the U.S. premiere of Cannes jury prize winner Capernaum from Nadine Labaki. Additional films include the U.S. premiere of Eva Trobisch’s All Good in the fest’s Narrative Competition lineup, and Ali Abbasi’s Border.

The Views from Long Island section will feature the East Coast Premiere of Michael Dweck’s stock-car documentary The Last Race. The Air, Land and Sea section will feature the U.S. premiere of Sasha Friedlander and Cynthia Wade’s documentary Grit, which explores the work of a young social and environmental activist in Indonesia after her village was buried by a toxic mudflow caused by oil drilling.

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The Kindergarten Teacher (Haganenet)


Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.


Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Critic Reviews for The Kindergarten Teacher (Haganenet)

A perplexing but all-too-human psychological drama .

Poetry is dead – but maybe a five-year-old boy can save it, with the help of his kindergarten teacher.

Lapid, following his acclaimed 2014 hostage drama “Policeman,” clearly has a lot on his mind here. But he tells his overlong story in such a diffuse, at times elliptical way that his reach exceeds its grasp.

Keeps its audience rapt until the quietly shattering conclusion.

A self-assured, remarkably powerful film from the Israeli writer-director Nadav Lapid.

What is weird, and ultimately destructive, is the way that The Kindergarten Teacher conceptualizes its child prodigy.

Even as it grows more and more perplexing, the movie is never less than fascinating, right up to its WTF finale.

Refreshingly, The Kindergarten Teacher offers a view of Israeli society that sidesteps the usual clichés.

The film is less about this prodigy than the spell he unwittingly exerts upon those sensitized to hear music where there is only noise.

The internationally acclaimed filmmaker’s new ‘The Kindergarten Teacher’ takes Jewish insularity to terrific extremes.

Both tantalizing and convincing.

The Kindergarten Teacher is stylish, pretentious and cerebral, with characters so schematic that they only intermittently resemble actual human beings.

Audience Reviews for The Kindergarten Teacher (Haganenet)

It has a curious premise, like a modern version of Amadeus (only with poetry, an unappreciated art form in our days, in lieu of music), following a madly obsessed woman who exploits a poor child to whom the gift of art comes so easy, but the film drags and feels a bit repetitive at times.

By night, Nira(Sarit Larry) attends a creative writing group. By day, she is a kindergarten teacher. One of her charges is five year old Yoav(Avi Shnaidman) who displays a prodigious talent at poetry which Nira talks about with Yoav’s nanny Miri(Ester Rada) who also wants to be an actress. Aside from pointing out that there is nothing more dangerous than a failed intellectual(which is a better explanation for Nira’s actions than simple empty nest syndrome), “The Kindergarten Teacher” also has quite a few things to say about the class structure in Israel. Writer-director Napav Lapid then takes those expectations and subverts them neatly throughout, even though he has a tendency to rely on extreme close-ups a bit too much.

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The Kindergarten Teacher 2 film


Maggie Gyllenhaal gives a mighty performance as a woman determined to nurture the talents of a precocious student, but her altruism turns twisted in this Sundance award winner.

Five-year-old Jimmy seems ordinary in all ways but one: his propensity for suddenly speaking aloud poetry created on the spot. His teacher, Lisa Spinelli (a career-best Gyllenhaal), sees Jimmy not just as a sublime prodigy but as her ticket out of her mundane life. But when Lisa presents some of Jimmy’s work at her weekly writing class – and elides mentioning they were written by a child and not herself – the praise she receives from her own teacher (Gael García Bernal, MIFF 2012’s No) sets her on a shocking, all-consuming path.

In adapting Nadav Lapid’s award-winning 2014 film of the same name for an English-speaking audience, director Sara Colangelo has switched the point of view from the child to his teacher, and its focus from masculinity and art’s place in a nation at war to femininity and art’s place in a nation of indifferent privilege. Colangelo’s version – made in collaboration with Lapid’s producer, Talia Kleinhendler, with Lapid himself executive producing – is both a nuanced trip into the psyche of a disillusioned woman and a remarkably tense thriller, and it won her the Sundance Directing Award (US Dramatic).

“Rippling with psychological complexity and sneaky humor, this is a rich character study that takes constantly surprising turns.” – The Hollywood Reporter

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Kindergarten Teacher

According to the National Education Association, kindergarten is the bridge between early childhood care and elementary school. As a result, it is a very important year for students and requires some special knowledge from teachers.

USC Rossier Online offers emerging and experienced education leaders multiple online graduate degree programs.

  • The Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) prepares aspiring teachers to encourage student success in the classroom
  • The Master of Education (ME) in School Counseling prepares aspiring school counselors for licensure in grades K–12.

Fordham University‘s online Master of Science in Teaching program prepares aspiring teachers (grades 1–6) for initial teaching certification or dual certification in teaching and special education.

Rasmussen College, School of Education – Online 9-month ECE Certificate, Online Bachelor’s in ECE Leadership

Capella University – Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education

Concordia University – Portland – Online MEd in Curriculum & Instruction with Concentration in Early Childhood Education

Kindergarten teachers have a lot of the same responsibilities of other teachers but also have to take into account that many of their students will be experiencing school for the first time. They must teach students basic skills in reading and writing in addition to showing them how to behave in the classroom and play nicely with others.

Kindergarten teachers need to be able to assess where students are academically and emotionally in order to set goals for the class and individual students. With the exception of extracurricular activities such as physical education, art class, or lunch, all lessons are typically conducted in one classroom.

In order to teach, a bachelor’s degree is required in addition to a teaching certificate. Kindergarten teachers are usually certified to teach any grade between kindergarten and fifth or sixth grade. For teachers who have a strong desire to teach kindergarten, it may be wise to have practical experience or coursework in early childhood education.

A Day in the Life

  • Morning: Kindergarten teachers will start the day early by preparing the days lesson and getting the classroom ready for students. She may greet students and parents when they get dropped off and instruct students to put their things away upon entering the classroom. Some schools will offer students breakfast or a snack in the morning and the teacher will be responsible for distributing that.
  • Mid-Morning: By mid-morning, the teacher may have students learning while sitting on a rug, or she might take a more hands-on approach to some lessons and have them work in groups at tables.
  • Lunch: A teacher assistant might take the children out for lunch and recess. This gives the teacher time to look at homework, clean the classroom, and prepare for the afternoon lessons.
  • Afternoon: The teacher may have additional time to plan lessons while the students take a nap after recess. After nap time, instruction resumes. The teacher may have the option to put the teacher assistant in charge of part of the class so that students can work in small groups or individually and still get the attention they need.
  • After Work: Kindergarten teachers, especially in the first few years, will likely have work to do after the students leave. This can include planning lessons, calling parents, meeting with school administrators, or checking homework.

Licensing Requirements

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum education required for kindergarten teachers across the nation, but many states reward teachers who have a master’s degree with a higher salary. Public school teachers have to receive state certification that shows they are capable of teaching any elementary school grade. This is done usually through a combination of certification classes, standardized tests, and a practicum. Our state certification pages have detailed information about what each state requires for kindergarten teachers.

Areas of Specialization

Kindergarten teachers have the same options for specialization as any elementary school teacher. They can receive additional training to teach music, art, or physical education. They may also consider earning a master’s degree in special education in order to increase their salary potential and be able to effectively teach students with learning differences.

Previous and Next Steps

Before landing a job as a kindergarten teacher, many people worked as interns in schools and other educational organizations. Working as a substitute teacher often does not require a credential and is a good way to get experience while going to school for a degree or certificate. Administrators will also sometimes look to the substitute pool when trying to decide who to hire for a full-time position.

Kindergarten teachers can build on their experience over time and make their skills work in other positions. For instance, some schools have grade level chair positions, which means one kindergarten teacher would supervise the other kindergarten teachers. Another option is to spend a year as a teacher on special assignment. These teachers can focus on a specific area where the school might be struggling such as literacy, technology, or discipline, and mentor teachers on how to improve in that area. There are many options for kindergarten teachers to further their careers if they are willing to gain additional experience and education.

For average salary information for kindergarten teachers (and several other early childhood education-related positions), go to our Jobs page and select a state.

National Organizations

  • Association of American Educators
  • National Association for the Education of Young Children
  • National Kindergarten Alliance

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The Kindergarten Teacher 2018

Maggie Gyllenhaal is riveting as a teacher and aspiring poet thrown off kilter by the conviction that only she can guard and nurture the lyric talent of a gifted five-year-old student.

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“Maggie Gyllenhaal gives her best film performance in years as Lisa Spinelli, a 40-year-old Staten Island teacher who is somewhat adrift in life. Her teenage kids are more invested in Instagram than family dinners and she’s not doing as well as she’d like in her poetry class (taught by Gael García Bernal). One day after school, she hears one of her five-year-old students, a sweet boy named Jimmy Roy, recite a poem. It’s a beauty. She becomes fascinated by this child who seems to enter a trance and produce gorgeous, pure art… Lisa becomes convinced that Jimmy is a once-in-a-generation talent, and she’s going to do whatever it takes to help that flower grow. And she’ll push back against everyone who stands in her way, even if it destroys her life.

The Wife | Official Trailer HD (2018)

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