A Teacher is streaming now on BBC iPlayer
Based on her 2013 movie of the same name, Hannah Fidell expands her original story of a teacher/pupil affair into a mini-series for FX, with mixed results. The TV version managing to expand the narrative of the film as promised. While equally attempting to focus on the affair’s outcomes for both the student (Nick Robinson) and teacher (Kate Mara).
Claire (Mara) has just joined the teaching team at a high school in Austin, where Eric (Robinson) is a senior. Here, Eric’s social circle of seniors immediately home in on the new young teacher. Their conversations a mix of male bravado, conquest and sexualised play that makes Eric feel uncomfortable. However, following a chance encounter in a local coffee shop, Claire agrees to mentor and support Eric; the boundaries between both student and teacher already tricky to define. And as time passes, the already loose professional boundaries fall away. Both Claire and Eric entering into a passionate, consensual but confusing affair.
Despite the effort taken to flesh out the movie’s narrative, A Teacher struggles to connect with its audience on a deeper level; despite its leads’ outstanding performances. The characters motivations often lacking both substance and time as events unfold in short 25-minute episodes. This flaw is all the more confusing given TV’s ability to build larger narrative arcs. However, some blame may lie within the choice of episodic structure and the lack of time it creates.
But, it is the last three episodes that are the most problematic. Each one attempting to explore themes of guilt, coercion and judgement while largely steering clear of any risky or insightful commentary. And this only creates a mixed and confusing statement on the affair at the heart of the show. One that feels strangely incomplete as the final scenes play out.
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