‘The Kindergarten Teacher’ Star Maggie Gyllenhaal on Why Flawed Female Characters Matter (Video)

“What works about the movie is she could be our friend, our sister, our neighbor, until she really collapses,” Gyllenhaal says of her character

Last Updated: November 14, 2018 @ 3:07 PM

Maggie Gyllenhaal wanted to be a part of “The Kindergarten Teacher” as soon as she read the script and locked into its deeply flawed female protagonist — a character that is not often seen on the big screen.

“I’m always looking to shatter a fantasy,” Gyllenhaal told TheWrap’s Thom Geier at a Q&A following a screening of the film in New York on Thursday night. “I wonder if people don’t want [to see] their mothers — to see women as broken and shattered and flawed and confused as we actually are. What works about the movie is she could be our friend, our sister, our neighbor, until she really collapses.” 

In the film, which was released on Netflix last month, Gyllenhaal plays a kindergarten teacher who tries to protect the artistic talent of one of her students and soon crosses the line into obsession. The film is an adaptation of a 2015 Israeli film of the same name, and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January. 

Gyllenhaal credited the female team behind “The Kindergarten Teacher” — including its writer/director Sarah Colangelo — for the film’s nuanced portrayal of a troubled female character. “If women are at the helm of something, and they do give themselves space to represent something real and human, it won’t be a fantasy of what a woman is. It will be a very complicated version of what a woman is,” she said.  

The film was shot in 22 days in New York City with “no money,” so Gyllenhaal said that Netflix’s acquisition of it was a total game-changer.

“[Netflix] told me how many people had seen the movie in the first 10 days, and I was actually, absolutely astonished,” she said. “And the reason I say that is because this is a complicated, difficult movie that requires care and attention and thinking, and I think for a really long time, people have not had access to that unless they live in really big cities [with] art houses.”