There are plenty of films and television shows that are ahead of their time. Many tackle tough subjects in a world that isn’t ready to hear them. Then, there are the few films and shows that hit at just the right time. Sure, they still make the audience uncomfortable, but they’re ready to listen. For me, A Teacher is the latest on that small list.
The FX/Hulu Original Series, A Teacher is based on the critically acclaimed film of the same name. The series follows Claire Wilson (Kate Mara), a young English teacher who has an affair with her 17-year-old student, Eric Walker (Nick Robinson). The show explores the complexities and consequences of this relationship and teaches those watching about grooming.
If you’re unfamiliar with what grooming is, it’s the act of befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child or young person. Sometimes this includes their families, in order to manipulate, exploit, and abuse them. Some of the most notable stories of teacher-student grooming would be Mary Kay Letourneau, Debra Lafave, and Matthew Shane Weste. Another great example would be the Netflix documentary, Abducted In Plain Sight. Unfortunately, the subject matter of A Teacher happens way too often. It seems the show is trying to give those watching the tools to recognize the behavior and get the help they need.
A Teacher and its lessons
A Teacher not only tells the story of the seduction, the affair itself, and being found out. It also delves into the rippling effects this moment in time has on both characters far into their futures. Kate Mara and Nick Robinson take on these characters with ease. So much so, I believe every second they are on the screen and I cringe the entire twenty-four minute episode. Hannah Fidell does a great job of making Mara’s character sympathetic. But, in the end, no matter how much the character may garnish this sympathy, it becomes crystal clear that there are zero excuses for this ginormous violation.
Something else I really like was that Claire and Eric aren’t the only iffy relationship writer/director Hannah Fidell wants viewers to evaluate in the series. We’re also introduced to Eric’s friend Logan who is interested in dating their other friend’s newly 14-year-old sister. This situation is also intended to make viewers pause and evaluate.
My biggest issue with the series is the roll-out. A Teacher premiered three episodes on November 10th and will continue to release one weekly episode at a time. I’m not usually against a weekly rollout instead of a full series drop, but for this series, I worry that this kind of viewing experience will cause the poignancy of the series to lose its oomph.