A Teacher (United States, 2020). Creator: Hannah Fidell. List: Kate Mara, Nick Robinson, Ashley Zukerman, Rya Kihlstedt, Shane Harper, Dylan Schmid, Marielle Scott. Available in: Star+. Our opinion: good.
In the early episodes of A Teacher, various posters warn us that we are going to see a story that involves a situation of abuse. Despite this, and the insistence on finding the right balance in the story, the series achieves an unusual thickness in the construction of its characters, whose motivations exceed the topics of victim and perpetrator that prevention can anticipate.
The creator Hannah Fidell – also a screenwriter and director of a film released at Sundance in 2013 that works as inspiration – explores not only the complexity of the relationships that are established between adults and young people in an educational setting, but also the social expectations that are condensed around that link and the consequences that can extend in terms beyond what is imagined.
Claire Wilson (Kate Mara) begins a new job as a literature teacher at Westbrook High School, located in the suburbs of Texas, where she grew up and also did her college studies. There she now lives with her husband Matt (Ashley Zukerman), an erratic relationship due to the difficulties they go through to become parents, the constant trips that separate the couple, and a kind of boredom that overshadows Claire’s life. The beginning of the school year puts her in the path of Eric Walker (Nick Robinson), a student trying to meet the academic demands to apply for a college scholarship, while taking care of his little brothers, working in a bar and hanging out with his teenage friends. There is nothing distinctive about Claire and Nick that turns their union into anything more than an attraction enriched by age disparity and the allure of the forbidden.
What the series proposes in its first episodes is a record as objective as possible, which avoids any moral sanction but also any alibi for a justification. Sexual tension emerges in looks, oblique tours of the school, encounters at school parties and a pact that will have catastrophic implications. Despite resorting to certain conventions in the staging of eroticism, seeking that diffuse limit that today offers a deconstructed “good taste”, Fidell’s strategy consists of circumventing several of the prejudices that define these relationships, removing the viewer from their previous and morally sufficient assumptions.
Kate Mara’s work in this sense is interesting, because it gives her character a humanity that is difficult to construct as long as she is aware from which place the viewer perceives her. She is never a fatal woman, but neither is she a caricature of a dissatisfied married woman, she is simply someone whose desire – not only sexual but also in relation to her profession, her partner and the life she wants to have – is opaque to any portrait or classification. There is a dimension that escapes the why of what happens and that the series assumes as one of its best virtues.
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a forbidden bond for a complex exercise on the limits of desire