Many people, it seems, saw the title of Hannah Fidell’s “A Teacher” and focused almost exclusively on … well, the teacher. Perhaps as they should. It’s certainly easy to get drawn into the confused, muddled mind of high school professor Diana Watts (Lindsay Burdge) given that she is having an affair with one of her students.
We’ve seen variations of the illicit sexual relationship before and quite often from the perspective of someone like Diana, a person struggling with the push and pull between inescapable guilt and undeniable passion. What we have not seen (at least not that I can recall) is something like the perspective of her pupil, Will Brittain’s Eric Tull.
Besides the obvious difference in their ages, a more subtle rift divides Diana and Eric: socioeconomic class. When they rendez-vous, she pulls up in a rundown, decades-old sedan. He cruises in with a Texas-sized truck. She goes home to a tiny apartment, which she shares with another friend. He can either go back to his palatial home or a sprawling ranch in the countryside.
Their relationship feels like it satisfies more than just a lustful teenager’s libido. Their tryst becomes rather symbolic of the kind of power wealthy students can wield over their instructors, who take home fairly measly salaries. Eric’s opulent background combined with a libidinous braggadocio (which recalls far too many people I knew in school) creates the ultimate one-sided exchange. He continues the affair less because he wants to and more because he can. It becomes proof of his superiority that he can turn a typical idle schoolyard fantasy into reality.
The reason for Diana embarking on such a foolhardy escapade seems unknown even to her, though that doesn’t stop her – and us – from trying to find out. No such quest was necessary for Eric. Every second Brittain spent on screen rang authentic to the swaggering Texas teen, and for that reason, “A Teacher” is my pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”