Maggie Gyllenhaal’s latest film, The Kindergarten Teacher, is a lot darker than the title lets on. In the first trailer for the upcoming Netflix movie, Gyllenhaal goes off the rails.
The thriller is centered around Gyllenhaal’s character, a bored teacher named Lisa Spinelli who is trying to find meaning in her life outside of work and picks up poetry as a hobby. After failing at it herself, Spinelli finds inspiration in one of her students, who writes his own poetry.
“I think we have a young Mozart,” she tells him, “if you stay curious.” Despite the boy’s father wanting his son to have a “normal” life, rather than work toward becoming a poetry prodigy, Spinelli pushes him to create, eventually claiming his work as her own. Rounding out the cast are Anna Baryshnikov, Rosa Salazar, Michael Chernus, and Gael Garcia Bernal, in the film directed and penned by Little Accidents‘ Sara Colangelo, who adapted the film from the Israeli original by Nadav Lapid.
“It’s about a woman who is fundamentally awake and wants to be alive—she’s an artist and nobody cares about her work,” Gyllenhaal explained to Marie Claire. “She doesn’t have any kind of artistic connection or human connection, and she’s driven crazy by the insanity of the culture and the time she finds herself in. (She lives in the same time that we do.)”
That time is largely shaped by President Donald Trump. “When I read—and was so moved by—the script, Trump had not yet been elected. I think Trump’s election was, for a lot of women, and a lot of people, kind of a wake-up call,” Gyllenhaal revealed. “And yet the things that we needed to wake up to were true even before Trump was elected. So I read the script, I responded to it, and when we made the movie last summer, the pain and shock of everything Trump was talking about—in particular in terms of women—was a part of my process. I’ve played a lot of women who you meet right as they can’t go on any longer in the way they were—they have to wake up, and the audience watches the different ways that they do so. That’s really interesting to me and true here for Lisa, except the ways she chooses are really off track.”
The Kindergarten Teacher hits Netflix October 12.