Miss Stevens is available to rent or buy.
Life is full of meaningful moments that shake our very foundations. Sometimes these moments are full of positivity and hope, and sometimes they are full of sadness and despair, but one thing is assured, these moments are unavoidable as we walk through life’s maze. For twenty-nine-year-old High School teacher Miss Stevens (Lily Rabe), her life is caught in the undercurrents of one of those life-changing moments. On the outside, Miss Stevens is attempting to keep everything together, her job teaching English to a bunch of sixteen and seventeen-year-olds, a passion that has now turned into a distraction. On the inside, Miss Stevens feels lost, and her life feels as baron as the deserts surrounding her small Southern California home.
Sometimes, Miss Stevens’ internal pain comes out for all to see, from a classroom discussion about the end of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, where she declares that “We’re all locked up in some way,” to her slowly increasing use of alcohol as a crutch. Miss Stevens needs an escape, comfort and someone willing to listen as she navigates a crossroad many of us reach as our twenties end. However, sometimes the person who can promote healing is the one we least expect to offer comfort. For Miss Stevens, a road trip to a drama competition in California with three of her students in tow, Margot (Lili Reinhart), Sam (Anthony Quintal) and Billy (Timothée Chalamet), will see two opposing worlds collide on the road to healing.
READ MORE: MONSOON
The delicate screenplay by director Julia Hart and Jordan Horowitz is based on their own experiences within the education system. This realism shines through every stage of Miss Stevens’ journey. Here the teacher is the student and the student the teacher, as the preset boundaries of engagement blur. Anyone who has worked with older teens will recognise Miss Stevens’ dilemma as she navigates engagement barriers while attempting to inspire and encourage. Central to this uneasy journey of healing is Billy (Chalamet), a boy who is lost and confused as he tries to navigate his ADHD. Billy’s meds block all his feelings while his passion for acting and performance set them free, his talent undeniable, his aura captivating and compassionate.
Billy finds someone just as lost as him in Miss Stevens, a kindred spirit in need of a hug. But Billy cannot yet distinguish between his need to help Rachel heal and the urge to engage in a physical relationship. Here the boundaries between the teacher and student are a ridiculous inconvenience in Billy’s mind. Meanwhile, Rachel reaches out to a married teacher who is also in attendance for comfort, leading to a disappointing sexual encounter that only deepens her disconnect. But when Rachel briefly drops her barriers during a moment of weakness, it’s Billy who provides the healing connection she needs before she again erects a wall between them that Billy neither understands nor accepts.
READ MORE: A TEACHER
Held together by a superb cast, with Rabe and Chalamet offering us stunning performances, Julia Hart’s delicate journey of healing has the complexity of a newly unfurled flower in spring. Here we are provided with an honest and engaging snapshot of a brief moment in time where everything changes through a single conversation that tests the boundaries of the teacher/student relationship and gives birth to a tentative new beginning.
For Miss Stevens, this short road trip will reaffirm her love of teaching and allow her to grieve through an unlikely connection. While for Billy, it’s a road trip where the teacher, student barrier is momentarily breached in allowing two people to find a human connection. After all, as Billy states, “Just because people are the people you’re supposed to talk to doesn’t mean you can talk to them.” While true, Rachel is also clear in her duties and the barriers they represent, despite the healing a young man on the verge of adulthood provides. This is a road trip neither Rachel nor Billy will ever forget, the end of one chapter and the start of another as two unlikely souls briefly converge before separating forever.