American miniseries, A Teacher, is currently available in the UK on BBC iPlayer, and at first I wasn’t sure I was going to like this. As a former teacher I am forever weirded out by teachers who can have affairs with students, especially women. Teenage boys are so immature, they smell bad – a huge generalisation, but come on, most of them do look and act way younger than they are. I ended up bingeing the whole thing in a couple of days, and I can’t stop thinking about it. The build up to the affair seems unconvincing, you’re not sure if it’s the acting or writing – do they actually like each other? It’s an odd beginning, and it’s hard to understand why the female teacher, Claire, decides to jeopardise her whole life, which is not that thrilling, but is certainly stable and settled with her husband and a mortgage. They’re discussing going through fertility treatment, Claire makes a comment that they are the only couple in their 30s they know without kids. This and the way her husband decides to spend a big chunk of their savings without telling her so he can resume his old hobby of being in a band are indications things are awry, but Claire’s decision, quite early on in her new role at a new school to seduce a pupil makes this drama seem a bit uncertain to start with.
Stick with it, the best bit comes after the affair ends and we see the immediate fallout and then what happens ten years later. Claire’s self delusion becomes more apparent, she’s a nastier character than we first realised, and it’s a great piece of acting from Kate Mara to give the character this arc. Nick Robinson looks about 15, but he’s 25 in real life, and convincingly plays Eric as an eighteen year old at school, to a university student, and later a thirty year old. His denial about being abused is enabled and fuelled by the young men in his life who call him a legend and find it all funny, it’s heartbreaking. His slow realisation that he’s a victim is one of the best bits of drama writing I’ve seen in ages, watching him fail to get over it is heartbreaking, and shines a light on the consequences of abusive power-imbalance relationships. There’s some striking scenes I won’t spoil, this is definitely one of my favourite lockdown watches.