2023: The Year of the Teacher | Features
Movie Reviews

2023: The Year of the Teacher | Features

Why is that? Kore-eda Hirokazu’s more subdued “Monster” has a clear answer. The film takes a look at a teacher’s unfortunate situation from multiple perspectives and comes to the conclusion that “what actually happened doesn’t matter.” In this film, a mom (Sakura Ando) discovers her fifth-grader son (Soya Kurokawa) has a new wound on his ear, due to an incident with his teacher in the classroom. When she meets with the principal, teacher and other administration, she is given a heavily scripted, uncomfortable apology. This obviously wouldn’t stand with any parent. The longer these meetings go on, the more she realizes she is dealing with people who have no interest in helping her son, investigating the occurrence or giving her a satisfactory outcome (ie, letting the teacher go). We in the audience feel her frustration. Teachers often get coached into what to say in parent-teacher meetings, but there is something clearly wrong here. 

“Monster” eventually backtracks and shifts its perspectives multiple times to give a clearer overview over what really happened in the classroom. The teacher, Mr. Hori (Eita Nagayama), has his side of the story, which would normally absolve him, but his private life also makes him a mark. Kore-eda’s sensitivity toward each of his characters helps make “Monster” a perfect example of how an incident at school can so easily be twisted from fact to legend. Once we know the entire story, there are no clear villains or heroes here. Just as in “The Teachers’ Lounge,” everyone, in their own way, is a victim of their limited perception on the events. What actually happened obviously does matter, but the sad reality remains that everyone has an opinion, every school has a board to answer to and those boards have public meetings and those meetings are well documented. The less said, the better, even if keeping a lid on things can still ruin lives. 

The teacher in Georgia Oakley’s “Blue Jean” has her own tightrope to walk when it comes to her personal life and a relationship she has with one of her students. Set in England in 1988, Jean is forced to live a double life as a closeted gay teacher. A new student, Lois (Lucy Happiday), arrives at her school who might also be closeted. At the beginning of the film, Jean teaches her class about “fight or flight response” and how a person’s natural instincts might not align with what needs to be done in that moment. Jean gets put into the fight-or-flight position when her student gets bullied for being gay, fights back and ends up being taken to the office. Jean’s job demands she reprimand Lucy for instigating a physical confrontation, even though she probably believes the other student had it coming. This has always been a typical teacher conundrum. Violence is never the answer, but Jean’s sense of empathy has to take a backseat in order to keep up appearances. A similar situation plays out again later in the film and has even larger consequences for all.

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