Back in 2013 filmmaker Hannah Fiddell released the indie film A Teacher in which a high school teacher had an illicit affair with a student. The film starred Lindsay Burdge and Will Brittain, drawing a mixed reception and low box office.
Fast forward to 2021 and A Teacher is now a 10 part miniseries also written and directed, for the most part, by Fiddell. Into the lead roles go Kate Mara (House of Cards, Pose) and Nick Robinson (Love, Simon). But much has changed in the intervening years including #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and various campaigns around bullying, power, consent and then some.
To address this the series begins in 2013, but will span a decade by the time it wraps.
Mara, who is also an executive producer, plays English teacher Clare Wilson who is married to all-round nice guy Matt (Aussie Ashley Zukerman). In her class is dashing young jock Eric (Nick Robinson), part of a posse of fairly privileged senior students (right down to one having the Latino housemaid). They like to drink, par-tay, are good at sports and mostly fresh with the young ladies.
But Nick needs help with his SATs to get into college so, during a chance meeting at his local diner when his mates slide up to the “hot new teacher,” he coaxes Claire into some one on one tutoring. Claire, for reasons still unclear to me other than things hormonal, agrees to the idea and layers it with furtive looks, awkward smiles and static electricity. You can see where this is going. Mind you, she’s no angel, having already pilfered some lipstick from a supermarket. Just because.
By the end of the first episode both are heading headlong towards the love that shall never speak its name (underage), required of the premise. This is achieved almost without objection, which is kinda too straightforward for my liking, and could have been more complex if one had at least put up some decent fight. I also couldn’t help but wonder if the story would get the same free story pass if the genders were reversed…
Questions around Claire being the responsible adult are not raised, unless it is being saved for subsequent episodes, which makes her less sympathetic as a character. I can’t work out if we’re supposed to dislike her, given Eric clearly doesn’t. Yes Robinson is easy on the eye (he’s also 25 in real life, 17 on screen), but not enough is done to justify why our teacher is throwing away marriage, career, and reputation all for a horny jock. Did I answer my own question? Maybe in 2013…
Nor is there enough addressing of a helicopter parent and their responsibilities in knowing what is going on with their rather wild child.
This leaves the series as little more than glorified soap: who’s up for a clandestine affair behind the lockers and in the back of the car (classy!)? As an aside, I hear Claudia Karvan does not like to discuss The Heartbreak Kid anymore, a 1990s tale of underage intimacy.
On that level it’s fairly entertaining and easy to digest in 30 minute episodes. The two leads are certainly engaging if better than this material.
Towards the later episodes it does touch upon the ramifications, but the finale was unseen, so I can only presume it finishes with a stronger editorial position than where it began. But by that stage it’s spent far too much time romanticising its premise in order to tack on any contemporary viewpoint. Why did we remake this again?
A Teacher dbl episode airs 8:30pm Sunday on FOX Showcase.