Teacher, written and directed by Adam Dick, is a new drama that offers a unique perspective on the issues of bullying and abuse. However, the film ultimately feels so odd and out-of-touch that you can’t help but wonder why the filmmakers didn’t think this was going to be overly creepy and uncomfortable.
This movie is about a high school teacher who spirals into insanity as he tries to protect his students and fight back against a wealthy and entitled member of the community. If that sounds like it is a lot, that’s because it is. Ultimately, the film’s biggest issue is that it bites off more than it can chew. If it had picked one of the two forces — bullying or affluence — as its focus, it would have been much more effective.
Instead, the movie ends up feeling like it is all over the place. There are plenty of good (even great) moments sprinkled throughout, but the tone is too inconsistent for them to come together into a satisfying whole. One moment, you’ll feel like you are watching a campy B-movie thriller that is a ton of fun, and the next, the film starts to become more of a somber drama about depression.
One of the causes of the movie’s inconsistencies is that the protagonist feels underdeveloped. It’s strongly implied that the protagonist suffers from bipolar disorder or some other similar condition. Had that been explained directly and in more depth, the frequent and jarring tonal shifts would have made much more sense. Unexplained, they are simply annoying and distracting.
David Dasmaltchian, who up until this point has been more associated with smaller supporting roles, does a very good job in his lead turn. He makes the character feel much more compelling than the writing would otherwise have him be because of his ability to infuse subtle emotion and a sense of dark humor into the role. He also has great antagonistic chemistry with Kevin Pollak, who gives an enjoyable, albeit underused, performance.
The part of this film that is actually somewhat effective is the way in which it handles the idea of trauma. In the beginning of the movie, some subtle hints are introduced about some of the characters’ pasts and then are referenced and built upon throughout until they become a big part of the arcs. The way in which this is done is the most impressive part of the film.
On a technical level, the movie isn’t bad, but you can tell that the focus was more on the script. The production design, score, and cinematography all feel very generic, even if they are professional. A bit of creativity in the execution could have gone a long way in making the film more visually appealing and absorbing.
Teacher is a challenging movie, but not in a good way. You can tell that Dick had noble intentions with his story, but ultimately, they got away from him and the end result just feels weird. Dastmalchian’s performance does make the film worth watching, though.
Teacher opens in theaters on August 2 and is available on VOD on August 13.