Directed by Hannah Fidell
A Teacher promises titillation. Make the joke—it’s exactly what I mean. The movie may well turn out to be “emotionally complex with compelling characters,” as The L’s Fall Preview ingeniously-disingenuously suggested, but unless the premise is one of outright child abuse, as in Doubt, we come tremulously hoping for, oh god, some good gray-area soft-core pornography.
This inherent element of desire should and does give director Hannah Fidell a head start. We meet Diana (Lindsay Burdge), young English teacher at a Texas high school and recreational runner (could... could she be running away from something?), who is reluctant to the point of panic attack to see her visiting brother and discuss their ailing mom (something in her past??). Shortly thereafter we see—more hear—her having backseat sex with Eric, a student of hers (traditionally hunky, safely college-aged Will Brittain), and fondly reminiscing about similar hijinks during her own high school years. Eric seems happy with their not-particularly-high-maintenance arrangement, and Lindsay, abjuring connections with men her age (represented here as painfully boorish), is a girl at school with a crush—and an unlimited data plan for sexting. Not until a foreman almost discovers the two taking advantage of an empty ranch does it seem to occur to Diana that the affair will almost inevitably (or else what kinda movie is this?!) have consequences—and doubtlessly awful ones for her.
The kind of movie this is, actually, is familiar—brief, pointed dialogue standing in for plot; beautiful shots of girl in landscape; a character study with some mumbly DNA—which doesn’t make Burdge’s work as a rapidly disintegrating Diana any less harrowing. Chaperoning a dance where Eric happily cuts a rug with a classmate, Diana goes to the bathroom, takes out a lipstick and… if it’s not Wild At Heart, it’s at least chilling.
Opens September 6