Netflix The Kindergarten Teacher Movie Ending Explained
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4.6Overall Score
Reader Rating: (11 Votes)

Sometimes you are handed a movie… and you are CERTAIN you are going to hate it. In this category I would place, without malice aforethought, any and all movies with the title of “The Kindergarten Teacher”. I mean, it goes without saying. Right? AWFUL. But five minutes into this particular Kindergarten Teacher I realized that that might just not be the case.

If you’d just take my word for it for once – you can watch the film right here. If that isn’t enough for you, watch this trailer. And then know, just know right now, that I like you just a little bit less than I did one sentence ago. Fair? Great.


Let’s dive shall we? Please batten down the hatches and take us to ludicrous speed… cause I’ve been dying to talk about this movie since I watched it on a plane yesterday. All I’ve been thinking about really. So excited. 

The Kindergarten Teacher Movie Deep Dive

I really don’t want to do a full fledged walk through on this movie. It’s simple enough to understand. But its complicated to unpack. So, with that in mind I am going to just give you the TV Guide version of the walk through, and then get on with it.

So Lisa Spinelli (played by the ever amazing Maggie Gyllenhaal, of one of the best movies ever – Donnie Darko) is a frustrated and drifting Kindergarten Teacher. She believes that we, as a culture, are a hollow husk and that we don’t know how to appreciate the truly great things in life. Her children, her husband? They are lost to the banal things of this life, and are missing the greater beauties available to us. Lost in “smart” phones, interwebs, and television. And heck, I don’t disagree with her, not even a little. And so she signs up for a poetry class, in the hopes of figuring out how to kindle exceptionality into her life again.

Problem? She’s a terrible poet. 

But then a boy in her class, Jimmy Roy (played by Parker Sevak, which is his break out role) begins randomly reciting the most amazing poetry she’s ever heard in her life. And her poetry class agrees! But when the boy’s family begins to take issue with the obsessiveness of Mrs. Spinelli’s interest, and licenses she takes with the boy, things blow up horribly. And when Jimmy’s father pulls Jimmy out of the school after Lisa took Jimmy to a poetry reading thing late one night… well, Lisa abducts Jimmy from his new school and makes a run for the border with him. 

And when I recap the movie for you in that sort of crass, un-nuanced way, Lisa comes off as a complete and total nut job. But is she? Really? The answer my friends hangs in the balance of the movie’s final four words. But we’ll get there in good time. 

The Kindergarten Teacher Movie Explained

For most of the movie, we don’t get a lot of exposition explaining why exactly Lisa is doing the things she’s doing. There really is no narration to indicate where Lisa is coming from. There are no big signs in the sky with arrows pointing to things she finds unconscionable. And so, if you watched this movie, and just came away with – whoa, what a MENTAL CASE! Lock her up! You missed like 80% of what this movie was trying to dialog about. Here, this is an interview with Maggie Gyllenhaal and Sara Colangelo (the writer and director) – and if I set it up right, it should start at the 2:00 minute mark.

Basically the thing she is talking about here is that audience she watched the movie with, they saw the scene in the poetry club and guffawed at Lisa. And then the next minute, Lisa was sobbing in the bathroom with this five year old by her side.

So let me see if I understand what really happened here. Maggie played this role of Lisa, and she played her with a skewing, a bent, that believed that Lisa was true to her convictions. That she was well intentioned. That she was all in on these particular convictions. But when Maggie, the actor, watched this portrayal of Lisa, in a theater full of other viewers, and when she watched them respond with outrageous laughter, she was shocked. (Can I say that personally, when I saw this moment she is describing here, it literally took my breath away and broke my heart.) But Maggie? She says that we can’t laugh at her. That isn’t possible. Because we just can’t know what her motivations are and what brought her to this point, and this conclusion. But that is the kind of world we live in right now. We guffaw at people as a matter of course. Sure, she had just abducted a child to go to this event. And yes, she’ll even do worse later in the movie. But in terms of crimes that we advocate for in our other movie viewing experiences, we would do well to skew Lisa’s direction as opposed towards say, any of Quentin Tarantino’s protagonists’ direction.

But maybe I’ve gotten ahead of myself here. Maybe you don’t even understand Lisa at all. Maybe we should talk through her perspective a bit.

The Lisa Spinelli School of Thought

We don’t have a ton to go on, but what we do have is about as concrete an example we could ever have wished for. At one moment in the film, Lisa is explaining to Jimmy’s father that in ages past, when someone with stellar talent was found, they were heralded as a near god-like entity. Wunderkinds were celebrated and exalted in order to better all of humanity. Young artists, musicians, architects, poets, writers, would be snatched from obscurity and given absolute anything they desired in order to cultivate their talent. Sure, they would break every single child labor law we have today in their pursuit of this talent, but they’d be pampered all along the way.

This sound a bit barbaric today. But it was assumed to be normal yesterday. And the example Lisa gives is Mozart:

Even at the age of four, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart apparently absorbed everything to do with music with a tremendous appetite and seemingly without effort. Not only did he already know how to play his first instruments, the piano and the violin, but he now composed his first piano concerto. Leopold Mozart regarded the blots of ink put down on paper by the unskilled hand of a child with disbelief, realizing that all notes were correctly arranged following contemporary musical rules. From this time on he also taught his son the art of composing: Wolfgang played the melodies on the piano and his father put the notes down on paper. Thus dances for keyboard came into being. At the age of six Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed a minuet and a trio for keyboard, the future number 1 of the Köchel catalogue.

http://www.mozart.com/en/timeline/life/childhood-and-musical-education-child-prodigy/

Curious what a child of six could be capable of that would send the music world into a literal dither? Here’s what Mozart’s first composition sounded like:

I mean. Come on. Six? Of course we would nurture that kind of talent today in the hopes of making it blossom. Wouldn’t we? Well, no. No, we don’t. And that is the thing that has Lisa in a serious twist. She is unwavering in her belief that supporting Jimmy, no matter what, is 100% the right thing to do. She believed this so much that she abandoned her lost and flailing children and husband, and sacrificed her life towards this goal. She ran counter to the course and unfeeling belief of society that we do things in a certain way. And if you don’t do them that way, you are a child molester.

Cause, let’s be honest here, that is how this will get played out after the fact. The tabloids will pick this story up, and brand her as a rapist, or worse. Right? But she was anything but. She was 100% motherly to this child. She even told him how to dial 911 for heaven’s sake!

Lisa’s Perspective On Her Failed Life

One of the really deep under currents of this movie is that Lisa believes herself a failure. But it is a relatively recent discovery. Apparently Lisa (per her daughter) had only recently joined the poetry class, in something of a minor mid-life crises moment. And though excited about poetry, she’s seen as quite the failure in the class. Well, that is until she started using Jimmy’s poetry as her own. And suddenly? She’s heralded as a success. 

But as we look through her family life, and the relationships she has with her children and her husband, we see that her dreams as a kid have all died. Her children have stopped talking to her as they burrow deeper and deeper into a culture that is chasing the banal. There is no better example of this than Lisa’s daughter. She gets straight A’s. By all measures, Lisa should be ecstatic about her daughter’s scholastic achievement and abilities. There is though, an enormous divide between the right leading edge of the bell curve, and off the charts entirely. And Jimmy, he’s off the charts completely.

Our Fear of the Divine

This past weekend in Memphis and Atlanta, I happened to have an opportunity to attend a mind blowing poetry reading event. It was amazing. I stood from the back and watched with tears streaming down my face perpetually… like, not stopping. The intensity of passion and the brilliance of the stanzas just lit my soul on fire. And after watching the show start to finish three different times I was a mess. Just a pool of jello. Each word was a rocket launched across the sky. There were so many soaring ideas I couldn’t rationalize what I was experiencing. And when it left the world of the coherent, I experienced the divine. Not metaphorically. Like literally. I saw the face of God and was amazed. It’s like the effect that a man-made sunset would have on just about anyone. I marveled as if I was watching a real life unicorn walking down Rodeo Drive. In a word, I was cleft. 

(S)trolling through the current Nielsen ratings we’ve got 3 or 4 Football entries, a couple NCIS entries, and a couple Voice entries. Don’t get me wrong, I love a football game as much as anyone. But there is nothing truly exceptional about grown men dancing a highly choreographed dance around a pointy ball. I mean, let’s be honest, football is just an ode to a long departed version of war perfected by the Romans and the Greeks. But this is the entertainment we spend our time with as a whole. Ask yourself this, why isn’t The Globe’s summer production of Othello in the Nielsen’s top ten?  Verdi’s La traviata anyone? Hell, why isn’t Shepherd Fairey’s newest show ‘Damaged’ on the list? I once accidentally stumbled in to church on Easter to a little church, maybe you’ve heard of it? Oxford’s Christ Church? And I had the opportunity to hear the Christ Church Cathedral Choir and Boys’ Choir perform. I mean, if anything should be on the Nielsen top ten it should be them!

As a culture though, we actively avoid the sublime. We revel in the trash. And you won’t even argue this point with me because, um, Keeping up with the Kardashians anyone? (I’m just going to leave a link to this scientific study right here (“Even 60 seconds of exposure to materialism is enough to significantly decrease how people feel towards those who are less fortunate than they are, researchers at the London School of Economics found.”) and then walking away slowly…). And yet, Lisa, attempting to turn the tide with one small act of civil disobedience, will be pilloried. She will be guffawed at by all of society without relent.

The End of The Kindergarten Teacher

The movie doesn’t move past her arrest. But I really expected to end with her suicide. Instead though it ended with the most poignant 4 words possible. 

“I have a poem.”

Why was that the most gut wrenching ending possible? Well, because from now own Jimmy will have those four words ignored. He’ll be ignored by his too busy father, and shuffled from here to there by young teen babysitters just making a buck. And Jimmy’s divine infused talent will be ignored. Worse, it’ll be belittled. 

Do I think Lisa was right to steal Jimmy away? No. But this movie isn’t about right and wrong from a moralistic standpoint. It’s making a bigger point about what we value in culture today. And it questions our diet of football, reality TV, and disposable trash experiences meant to pass the time. 

We have one go at this life. On average, most people reading this post will successfully maybe make it to 73? Best case! You might not make it past tomorrow! And yet, tonight we are going to watch another football game as opposed to heading to the nearest art museum and getting as close to the art as the guards will let you and really absorbing it. Instead of The Voice, why not crack open T.S. Eliot’s poem, The Wasteland?

I am probably one of 12 people that agree with Lisa. Sara Colangelo was trying to make you think about talent and skill and what really matters to you in your life. She was questioning the status quo in a controversial way that was meant to make you think. Did it? Or did you come to this page trying to figure out how the heck Lisa wasn’t shot on sight at the end?

Edited by, CY

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38 Responses

  1. Christine

    Bravo! BRAVO! Just thank you for this beautifully written appreciation of what art means or can mean in a life lived surrounded by the banal.

    Reply
  2. Taylor

    Woah woah woah! Slow down there sister! I am trapped by these contrivances just as much as anyone else. But I know the value of quality art, profound experiences, and deeply felt moments as a result of a minuet, a painting, a poem. It does feel like even amongst great artists, we devolve their art into the scroll of a Pinterest page and a “like”.

    Hold on, I think I may have just thrown up in my mouth some.

    And musicians are valued for the Spotify ad revenue churning capabilities. Just seems all broken and upside down to me. Frick. I say we elect an artist and let them arbitrarily spin policy to the tune of the manic-depressive passions. Can’t be any worse than what we have today.

    Just saying. Sorry. Not sure how this turned into a rant.

    Reply
  3. runaway

    On the subject of well meaning adults who sacrificed themselves for a child’s best interest and judged by society unfairly, there’s a Japanese tv series called Mother (and a more recently made Korean tv series). It’s honestly hard to watch because the subject is very heavy but it’s a very well made drama series.

    Not really sure if the site (viki.com) that’s offering it is available round your parts.

    Reply
  4. Laura

    I’m so glad you liked this as much as I did! I feel very much the same – those last four words positively broke me. I don’t know how anyone could walk away from the movie not feeling at least some empathy for Lisa and what she did. I can’t imagine reacting to the poetry club scene by laughing.

    Reply
  5. Jenny

    I have seen the movie. I actually have to say that i agree with the kindergarten teacher. What a waste of talent. Lots of lessons learned from this movie, family and relationships. I wonder if the poems from the movie were actually written and published? Great Actors too especially Maggy and the little one.

    Reply
  6. Taylor

    Didn’t mean to say that I would be the only one agreeing with Lisa. The more I think about it the more I think most thinking adults, swinging by the page, and patient enough to read a three thousand words rant on the subject probably are self selected supporters of Lisa. So yeah, the write up wasn’t attempting to dissuade viewers from agreeing. Just think that on average, they wouldn’t agree.

    Jade to say that out loud. Get that off my chest. Heheh.

    Reply
  7. Emma

    I enjoyed the movie but I was a bit disappointed by the ending. The boy seemed to like the teacher but called the police nevertheless even though she meant no harm. Why did he hold her hand after calling the police. But again, he is only 5 years old. I would have liked another ending.

    Reply
  8. Chase

    The beauty of the movie is that Lisa let Jimmy choose. She kidnapped him, sure, but when he decided he didn’t want to be kidnapped, she honored his wish to return to the world of banality, to the tune of sacrificing the rest of her life. That’s what is so beautiful about this movie. Lisa was willing to risk everything to see jimmy succeed, but was unwilling to force greatness upon him. She let him choose at the hazard of her own life.

    Reply
  9. Cera

    I just watched it last night. My first reaction to the ending was that without Lisa, Jimmy’s poems would be ignored. But the longer I thought (and I did sit and think awhile after watching it), I remembered what Lisa’s poetry instructor said in response to her being a kindergarten teacher; that her position was “a very delicate thing” and that kindergarten teachers give children things they “will have for the rest of their lives.” In that context, even though Lisa could not nurture and foster Jimmy’s talent herself, she did give him extraordinary affirmation and demonstrated to him how he could let other people know that he “had a poem” and wanted them to “write it down.” Though he was uncomfortable with how Lisa began to behave, he liked that she cared about him and about something he was good at and enjoyed. There is a chance all of that combined would help him to overcome banality yet still have a balanced life.

    Reply
  10. Amber Schweitzer

    Taking a four-year-old to a poetry reading isn’t really nurturing his talent, it just seems exploitative.

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Oh, for sure exploitative. I don’t think anyone disagrees with you there Amber. HIGHLY exploitative. But wasn’t Mozart’s father exploitive in his pushing for Mozart’s promotion? Heck, ditch Mozart. Let’s just talk for twelve seconds about Dance Moms. Or how about we don’t. Or maybe spelling bee parents, or heck, anything at an A level of competition. Where this goes all meta and seriously wonked is the fact that this woman isn’t the child’s mother. hahaha. She abducted him. Stole him from his family.

      If this was his mom, would you be ok with his mom taking him to this poetry reading? Heck, re-envision this entire movie from the ground up with her as his mom. We ok now? Is it abusive? Probably not. So actually, I don’t think Exploitative is the right word. Abductive seems more like the right word than exploitative. No? hehe.

      Reply
  11. Troy Brodeur

    I would like to agree with you if only your article wasn’t riddled with grammatical errors. Wow.

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      translated: “Uh, I came here hoping to see Lisa strung up on a rope. But. The only thing i can muster in response to this opinion is an ad hominem attack.”

      Happy to make any grammatical changes you find. But this is me being über doubtful said assistance will ever come.

      Reply
  12. Karin Freeman

    I think you caught our compulsion (which is really an oxymoron, considering compulsion would be a passionate innate response, and “passing the time” sounds like we’ve already hung up our skates and are content with all things wallpaper) with your phrase, “and disposable trash experiences meant to pass the time”. It is like we have lost the spark that sets us alight to strive to be better than we could possibly be, and consequently are… Each one of those kindergarten children was a tiny flame to be tended, not just the savant poet.

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Hey there Karin,
      First… loved your comment about the other flames in the room. Sure, I think probably she was quasi-asleep at the switch for the other children. I personally had a lit. teacher (think I recently discussed him some over on the Irréversible movie review I did) that I will never forget because of the way he used my interests and kung-fu’d me towards amazing lit as a result. (Well, The Marquis de Sade isn’t exactly amazing… but Camus was, as well as… stop stop stop.) To have a teacher endeavor to do that for each student in each class is a glorious ideal. Seems a bit impractical. Would love to hear from teachers wandering through… is it possible to endeavor for excellence with each child, or is there a bell-curve of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in classes too?

      But the reason I am commenting was simply because of your comment about my “catching your compulsion”… your comment, “It is like we have lost the spark that sets us alight to strive to be better…” the rest I addressed (attempted to anyway) above. But it is this glorious prose that turned my head, ‘we have lost the spark that sets us a lite to strive to be better’. So much there. We have lost the spark, haven’t we? We have enabled a bevy of medicinal treatments tuned perfectly to the dulling of our perceptions and understandings. We have yielded even the right to question. The right to have a question, or better yet, think critically. Hell. Think at all.

      I don’t disagree that she was shirking. (And yet, it feels like she was a good teacher generally. (like she was a good wife, good mother? blech. Never mind. I yield the floor. heheh.) But what about the divine!??!?
      Taylor

      Reply
  13. Lisa

    My first time commenting here but this is my go to page for movie recommendations because I hate the banal. My heart ached at the end of this movie when he spoke those words knowing that no one in his life would be willing to nurture his talent. I felt for Lisa, too. I also didn’t want to watch it due to the name but put it on the other day when I couldn’t find anything else to watch. I’m glad I did!

    Reply
  14. Malik

    Good review. I did catch the last line. I have a poem and now his talent will no longer be realized. He will be a normal kid like everyone else. Even if she got him over the border how long could they actually last and how far could he actually go?

    Reply
  15. Joseph Aaron Combs

    I watched this movie last night and then spent an hour discussing it with the wife this morning. It was that good. We had some differences of opinion about a few things, so I decided to do something I’ve never done and looked at various reviews of the movie (after watching it). Lo and behold, most of the reviewers missed the point. I read little phrases about the difficulty discussing “child abuse” and Lisa’s “white privilege” (yes, really).
    Taylor got it. The last four words. And why did no reviewer notice the father was just as guilty as the teacher through his gross negligence? Was it because he was financially successful? Well, that makes it okay I guess.

    Reply
  16. Jim

    “Jimmy, this world is going to erase you…there’s not a place in this world for you…you’ll become a shadow, just like me..” Lisa saw his future in that moment, and we saw it begin as he sat alone in the police car with a poem that world would never hear.

    Reply
  17. James

    “Jimmy this world is going to erase you…you’ll become a shadow just like me…” Lisa saw his future in that moment, and it begins as he sits alone in the police car with a poem that the world will never hear.

    Reply
  18. Light

    While I agree with her reasoning for wanting to help Jimmy, I was very uncomfortable with the way she went about it–abduction and kidnapping, really? She was just a crazy control freak. If she wanted to help him long term, why didn’t she just buy him a recording device like an Ipod and tell him, “here, touch this button and speak your poem into it. then save it here and by the time you can write you will have a book. Then come to me and I will help you write a book at that time.”

    Reply
  19. Eugenia

    I agree with Light. I don’t believe a talent can be extinguished because of a few years of neglect. The poems he writes at eight (or at whatever age he can write them down) will be just as poignant. If Mozart’s father had not treated him as a possession that he used for his own ego gratification, his son still had the talent to become a notable musician revered through the ages.

    Reply
  20. Taylor Holmes

    I love this new line of logic from Light and Eugenia, but I personally couldn’t disagree more. Mozart was a genius regardless, but the fact that his father had access to a piano, and was a good musician himself is what made him the talent he became.

    Malcom Gladwell, in his book Outliers, talks about the fact that Bill Gates was a product of hours and hours of dedicated practice, as well as unparalleled access. Gates had access to the local college’s mainframe in his early teens. Access that very very few had. And it was this access, plus hard work, that resulted in his ability to develop Windows, and his creation of Microsoft. To assume that if this boy, left to his own devices, would develop into a world renowned poet on his own is fairly ludicrous.

    Do I personally believe all children, with high IQs (artistic, mathematical, whatever) should be accosted, and hauled into a state funded asylum for training and tutoring? NO! Obviously not. But to swing to the other side of the pendulum and to say that he would automatically develop into a renowned poet is naive. There is no real right answer here. Maybe the closest answer was attempted and abandoned – when she tried to tell his father just how amazing he was, that he needed tutoring, and that it would be donated to his family. Who knows?

    But that is why this movie is so good. Could it be that all of our kids have a hidden Rembrandt in them? All of our kids have a hidden Einstein, E.E. Cummings, Degas, etc in them? We though, are strangling it out of them through our distraction (TV, Tabloids, busyness)? Obviously not all, but maybe a larger percentage than we would like to admit. Which is why this is such a poignant story… so polarizing. Maybe I am strangling my clever child, accidentally. Killing their inherent brilliance through my penchant for just surviving? Who knows.

    Reply
  21. Ryissa

    How does an otherwise banal woman fall off the edge?
    Her home life is banal, her school is banal …
    Her children are moving forward
    Her world is shrinking

    Suddenly she sees a child who she alone recognizes is brilliant.
    Is he truly brilliant?
    Does that question matter?
    She’s infatuated beyond remaining fully rational on this point.

    And we know she’s up against a situation she can’t win at.
    She wants to turn this child into a surrogate for her grown kids, for her missing talent, for a life lacking adventure

    But it’s too absurd, so absurd even a 5 year old child can’t be convinced to go along.

    Reply
  22. Danielle Masursky

    Taylor, thank you so much for your insightful review. I just watched the movie this weekend, so I am coming late to this conversation. I went in search of some commentary online as I have no one to discuss the film with (in person) right now. I totally agree with your assessment of the film’s meaning and the poignancy of that final line (and the poignancy of Jimmy not having realized quite what he was giving up by reporting her, he’s only 5 years old after all). HOWEVER, as a mom, I was super uncomfortable with Lisa’s choices, both in the way that she tried to steer Jimmy to create poems for her class assignments, and then, later, kidnapping him. I get her motivation was to support Jimmy (hence she sacrifices the instructor’s good opinion of her as well as her job and family), but her actions were really unsettling, as intended, I am sure. Doing the right thing in the wrong way is possible, even common, and you can make a strong case that this movie examines that exact issue. P.S. I am offering grammar advice (as you asked): it’s “batten down the hatches” and you also wrote “write and wrong” in that last section, though I wondered if that was perhaps intentional.

    Reply
  23. deKev

    Interesting, does anyone else not see that Lisa is nothing but a selfish, self-absorbed character? Okay, granted that her willingness to sacrifice herself in order to mentor or nurture a rare, genius-level artist is commendable, but surely she ought to see that there are other ways to achieve just that without going nearly full-on Robert de Niro as in The Fan? I’m sure there are plenty of poet’s societies or some such organizations that will be more than able and willing to step in and help Jimmy. Failing that, surely the kid can be taught how to record his poems onto a recording device like the cell phone he’s already using for goodness sake?

    To me, everything she does is for her own good, it’s certainly not in the best interest of the kid, even though she might claim just so to the kid’s father: claiming his poems as her own in her poetry class or lying to everyone concerned in order to take Jimmy to the recital. She is also so egoistically self-centred that she sees herself as Jimmy’s sole protector or sole champion or even as Jimmy’s muse: teaching Jimmy how to answer possible questions like the identity of Jimmy’s Anna or storming off the stage after learning that she is not Jimmy’s Anna after all.

    Sure, on the surface, she’s a good if unremarkable teacher/wife/mother, just an average someone who yearns for more beauty or artistry from an otherwise bland existence, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But to be so snobbish about it, like the put-down she dished out to her own straight-As daughter, and to be so blind to the point of not actually seeing the quiet achievements of the people around her (the kid’s father and nanny would otherwise stand the scrutiny of most for being a dependable provider and carer respectively), just make her a difficult character to like already, even before her even less desirable traits like obsessive behaviour are revealed.

    Still, despite her deep flaws, Lisa is such an interesting character (or should I say a slightly reprehensible character with some redeemable qualities), which makes this character study film ever so compelling to watch!

    Reply
  24. deKev

    Interesting, does anyone else not see that Lisa is nothing but a selfish, self-absorbed character? Okay, granted that her willingness to sacrifice herself in order to mentor or nurture a rare, genius-level artist is commendable, but surely she ought to be able to see that there are other ways to achieve just that without going nearly full-on Robert de Niro as in The Fan? I’m sure there are plenty of poet’s societies or some such organizations that will be more than able and willing to step in and help Jimmy. Failing that, surely the kid can be taught how to record his poems onto a recording device like the cell phone he’s already using for goodness sake?

    To me, everything she does is for her own good, it’s certainly not in the best interest of the kid, even though she might claim just so to the kid’s father: claiming the kid’s poems as her own in her poetry class or lying to everyone concerned in order to take Jimmy to the recital. She is also so egoistically self-centred that she sees herself as Jimmy’s sole protector or sole champion or even as Jimmy’s muse: teaching Jimmy how to answer possible questions like the identity of Jimmy’s Anna or storming off the stage after learning that she is not Jimmy’s Anna after all.

    Sure, on the surface, she’s a good if unremarkable teacher/wife/mother, just an average someone who yearns for more beauty or artistry from an otherwise bland existence, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But to be so snobbish about it, like the put-down she dished out to her own straight-As daughter, and to be so blind to the point of not actually seeing the quiet achievements of the people around her (the kid’s father and nanny would otherwise stand the scrutiny of most for being a dependable provider and carer respectively), just make her a difficult character to like already, even before her even less desirable traits like obsessive behaviour are revealed.

    Still, despite her deep flaws, Lisa is such an interesting character (or should I say a slightly reprehensible character with some redeemable qualities), which makes this character study film ever so compelling to watch!

    Reply
  25. Lu

    Watched movie w/said friend I’ve known since (no pun intended here, but tis a truth) kindergarten. She didn’t “get” the end. No surprise there. She still attends Mass at the same parish where we attended Catholic school K-8. Sigh

    Anyhoo, upon having to Google the meaning of the ending (another deeper *sigh*), and proceeding to read not only THIS article out loud, but random comments, I couldn’t help but return to leave my own as soon as we ended our monthly bestie get together of dinner and an at home flick.

    Why?
    What I came away with from the comments:
    Misery loveth company

    Okay, altho I did enjoy the film & the perspective of insight which demonstrated its intentions ….. ummm …. well ….. it IS fiction. Probability of both the timeframes captured in the movie, whether pre or post arrest seems to be rooted in all negative assumptions.

    P-E-O-P-L-E …. please TRY to understand that, while maybe one percieves such plights as ‘probable’, the reality is such that the tone of the movie obscures what is/would be POSSIBLE !

    Meaning: the child IS ONLY FIVE & give individuals like such a LITTLE credit for their Spirit? Life & other people HAVE & WILL ALWAYS tried to snuff out talent and passion. That is (just a part, not the entirety of) the Human Condition 😉

    TRUE and even semi-genius is usually well rooted in a strong foundation of Spirit. To look at the event as though the boys destiny w/creative genius COULD be squelched, there but for the Grace of God ….. ergo, the movie provided not an insignificant reminder tis up to ALL of US to do our part(s), eh? Best case scenarios and all?

    Also, as a prior reviewer picked up on, the event would likely write on the chalkboard of how the child would be permanently affected in the aftermath. Again ….. possibilities require choices would be made as a direct result of the attention placed on his talent.

    I guess what I’m TRYING to say is this: the film’s perspective seemed to nullify Lisa’s profound narcissism, period. She made HIS talent very much about HER because of HER OWN lack of fulfillment w/the current status of HER life. Period.

    A little LESS narcissism could well have taken her down alternative paths in which she COULD HAVE focused any genuine intentions FOR THE CHILD & his talent towards significantly better outcomes. All too often, people seem to easily lose sight of what their REAL intentions even are, no less the morality/ethics of their own intentions.

    She did NOT empathize w/what was in the best interest of the child. Narcissists often justify themselves & their actions in distracting others from seeing the roots of their intentions.

    Whether the teacher, Lisa, had the best interest of the child’s talent or what society might NOT benefit from if the child’s talent wasn’t “nurtured” &/or by her, one thing is paramount: she did NOT serve the best interest of THE CHILD.

    Last thought?
    Of course I am also saddened by current societal obsessions w/all things NON-connecting of humans w/either themselves, each other &/or Nature/their surroundings, the author of this article made a comment along the lines of perhaps being one of only a tiny population (the number of 12, I believe?) whom had certain feelings & longings for more cultural or art appreciative activities. That comment was, besides the aforementioned assumption based in negativity, fairly narcissistic itself. I happen to believe many if not most individuals would PREFER engaging in activities that lend greater “meaning” where perhaps emotions are better experienced. Its the hustle required by Life nowadays that limits many severely ….. to where the longing isn’t gone as much as the reminder/knowledge on HOW to make it so ….. but hey, maybe that’s just me? Eternally grqteful for what I DO have in my life & optimistic towards others? Or at least I TRY 2b?
    **na, there’s a LOT of people out here that DON’T see the Human Plight as THAT pathetic, unredeemable or hopeless. Movies like this help keep us on our toes too 😉

    Namaste all ……

    Reply
  26. Cynthia

    I’m coming late to this discussion. Although I agree with a few points of Taylor’s review (like our difficulty with the sublime), I tend to read Lisa’s character as deKev and others here: she is a sick “person”. She has no notion of reality, and/or thinks that reality revolves around her.
    There are tens of ways to help a child develop a talent, and as a teacher she should know at least a few of them (special education for high ability learners; talking to the parents/the principal and contacting a book editor with their permission etc. etc.). And this does not have anything to do with morality. It has to do with logic: what could she achieve by taking him away?! Nothing. She is not a good poet herself, nor a literary critic, nor an editor. Maybe she could steal his poems and publish them on the internet under a false name. That’s about it.
    What brings me to another point: did anyone think that Jimmy might not be that special, but just a sensitive kid like so many others? Everyone is brilliant at one time or another, it is not a big deal at all. It is practice and consistency that determine expertise. And the concept of “genius” is highly controversial anyway.
    I am a literature professor myself and once a week I experience the honor of hearing a “oh my God, what a deep, unexpected, brilliant” thought by a student. If I were to kidnap all of them… hehe
    I read the story as Lisa projecting her frustrations on the boy. We could even interpret that his poems sounded so much better than hers in poetry class because of the way she reads them, not because of their literary value per se.
    I loved the film because it was very well built and acted. But a real Lisa would need serious medical help, that’s for sure.

    Reply
  27. Lu

    ROTFLMAO !!

    The above individual, Cynthia, a literature professor, commented as follows:

    “did anyone think that Jimmy might not be that special, but just a sensitive kid like so many others? Everyone is brilliant at one time or another, it is not a big deal at all. It is practice and consistency that determine expertise. And the concept of “genius” is highly controversial anyway.
    I am a literature professor myself and ….. blah, blah, blah, blah, blah ……”

    OMG! Too freakin funny!
    Uh, dear soul ….. psssst ….. that mentality RIGHT THAR is EXACTLY what the film used as a foundation to build upon: fear of the inherent hopelessness of the human condition. That EXACT understanding where many individuals, & especially “subject matter experts” lose sight of the miracles we are often surrounded by as we journey thru Life w/perceptions dimmed by pessimistic outlook, over analyzing, &/or maybe simply UNWILLING to recognize greatness when we are IN the actual presence of it ….. all to ready to dismiss the possibility of greatness.
    The mentality you put forth in your question IS the perceptual experience which the Kindergarten Teacher used to justify her delusional reality!

    Oh MY, but Thank you *grateful nod* for what was just the gift of a gut busting laugh. Gotta LOVE society’s “professors” *wink*

    Reply
  28. Chris

    Initially the ending left me quite gut-punched, with Jimmy forever unable to get his poems out there. But am I supposed to think that Lisa won’t be able to explain her actions to the police or to the court? A testimony could be a chance for her to tell she wanted to protect Jimmy’s poetic supertalent, raising awareness to the talent an sich and making a case that his talent is worth protecting.
    But the movie wants to play it like Lisa’s arrest is the end of her story with Jimmy, but it’d be only the beginning.

    Reply
  29. Lynne

    Light – thats the problem. You are part of the whole problem this movie is about. Lets just give a kid an ipod or something versus actually helping them or spending time with the.. smh!!

    Reply
  30. Lu

    To Lynne [March 4th, 2019]
    *Clap*clap*clap*clap*clap*
    Preach it *palm facing outwards*

    rotflmao!

    Reply
  31. Artcurus

    One of the issues I had with this film was that if the teacher had been male, and the student female, there would have been pitchforks, torches, a guillotine, possibly tar and feathers involved.

    I was also very interested in what was actually happening, why the sudden poetry? I fully understand why they left this a mystery, it would have taken away from the plotline. We can only guess he was channeling Robert Frost or some other poet.

    That being said, this story hit home somewhat as someone who works with kids. I actually had an 8 year old girl with a story that was absolutely amazing. If it had been handled properly, she would quite well off by the time she was 10. I went the correct route, I made contact with the parents and had permission to a professional editor I was working with at the time couldn’t believe it either. He said it was better than half the manuscripts he saw daily, and that was in rough draft form.
    Unfortunately the girl was unwilling to make some necessary changes to clean it up and improve on the story line somewhat.

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Hey there Artcurus,
      You are 100% right about the differences in perception between men and women on this front. But uh, gotta say, that isn’t unfounded. I guess we could talk about gender bias or some such, but gender bias may keep my kids alive one day. I’ve told them over and over, if someone is following you, or doing something you don’t like? Look for the most obvious “mother” in the crowd, and tell her you need help. hahahaha. Is that wrong? Yes. Do I care what you think? No.

      Yeah, the how was an interesting line of thought I didn’t really point the post at much. But that is an intriguing question. Your Frost channeling comment made me think of something. If you want a Sci-Fi movie recommendation in this same space would be Midnight Special. Special kid, on the run… totally different conclusion all together! hahah.

      Anyway, thanks for the comment and for swinging by. Don’t be a stranger!

      Reply
  32. Phil Bracco

    The arguments and point of views are indeed fascinating, and valid points in every single on of them.
    The sheer number of take aways from this film are fodder for a great piece of cinema.
    My take, however, is that Maggie Gyllenhaal and her truly magnificent turn as Lisa, is the catalyst of all the narratives.
    Without her earnest and wonderful realizations, and brilliant, empathetic obsession is what acting ( and direction) is simply what making movies is all about.
    Applause for Ms. Gyllenhaal…may her talents be used to this degree often, and not overlooked like Jimmy’s were.

    Reply

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