About a Teacher

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
About a Teacher Movie Poster Image
Awkward but earnest, moving drama has strong language.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 112 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Movie is ultimately about teacher finding connection with his students. He tries yelling, discipline, other negative tactics before he simply tries talking to them as human beings and, more importantly, listening. This translates to students doing their work and finding enthusiasm for it -- and success for all.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mr. Harchol is sometimes frustratingly clueless, but as movie gets toward second half, his perseverance (in face of almost constant failure) and eventual small victories, plus his joy and relief at achieving them, make him quite admirable.

Violence

Frequent stress and tension, yelling and shouting. A student roughly grabs a teacher's arm. Story about a young girl being abused by a man.

Sex

A husband and wife discuss sex ("I have needs") and having a baby. Character in a nightie.

Language

Strong, frequent language includes "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," "bulls---," "a--hole," "p---y," "bitch," "suck my d--k," "dumbass," "damn," "hell," "piss," "butthole," "goddamn," and "God" (as an exclamation).

Consumerism

McDonald's bags regularly appear in the classroom. Apple computers are shown frequently. Dasani vending machine shown. In-N-Out Burger shown. Snapple mentioned several times.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that About a Teacher is a realistic drama about a musician (Dov Tiefenbach) who takes a job at a rough New York public high school for the arts. The real-life teacher the character is based on, Hanan Harchol, wrote and directed the film based on his own experiences. Expect strong, frequent language, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "p---y," and more. Characters experience great stress and tension, with shouting and yelling. A student roughly grabs a teacher, and there's a story about a young girl being abused. Adults talk about sex and having a baby, and one student is said to be a teen father. The movie is sometimes awkward and too long, and has too much shaky-cam, but it's ultimately quite powerful and moving and is recommended for mature teens and up.

User Reviews

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Adult Written byJulieMark April 22, 2020

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What's the story?

In ABOUT A TEACHER, musician Hanan Harchol (Dov Tiefenbach) decides it's time for a steady job and accepts a position teaching film at a New York public school for the arts. At first, it goes horrifically badly, with Harchol unable to control his students or get them to listen. He brings his stress home and wakes up with nightmares. He asks fellow teachers for advice and tries many approaches, all of which fail. His superior, Ms. Murry (Leslie Hendrix), keeps calling him into her office to chastise him about his failings and to harangue him about the school's reams of required paperwork. Finally he speaks to Ms. Martinez (Aurora Leonard), who asks him, "Do you like your students? Do you talk to them?" Harchol eventually figures out what she means, and things finally start to change.

Is it any good?

Written and directed by the real Hanan Harchol, based on his own experiences, this sometimes awkward but ultimately earnest and moving drama transcends the usual "teacher movie" clichés. Clearly inspired by the school of documentary-like realism, About a Teacher is plain-looking and too long, and has too much shaky-cam footage. It sometimes reaches too far, as in Harchol's regular lunches with his father. And characters are sometimes short-changed, like one student who does nothing but put on her makeup in class. But through it all, the movie really does build toward something positive and touching.

Tiefenbach gives an honest performance, and when Harchol connects with a student, his joy and relief are palpable. The students come to life, too, as we begin to hear their matter-of-fact stories: One has a daughter at home and works two jobs, one was beaten by her mother's boyfriend, one is a troublemaker who eventually becomes the class's top student. Harchol provides many rich details, from the insane school policies and paperwork to things like a missing camera. None of these are used for melodrama, but simply to reveal more about the situation. Ultimately, About a Teacher is a relevant, even necessary movie about making connections where they might seem impossible.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about About a Teacher's depiction of violence. What's shown, and how does it play out? Can general stress, tension, yelling, and so on be considered violence?

  • Is Mr. Harchol a role model? Why or why not?

  • Why is it so hard for adults to connect with teens, and vice versa? What techniques does Mr. Harchol try? Which are successful, and which aren't?

  • How does this movie compare to other films about inner city teachers trying to connect with challenging students?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

Themes & Topics

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