The English Teacher



Devoted teacher makes a fateful mistake in solid comedy.
  • Review Date: May 17, 2013
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 91 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Selfless devotion to other people isn't always rewarded, and some people who think they're only trying to help others may have ulterior motives. Sometimes you have to look a little deeper to determine what people want and what they're trying to accomplish.

Positive role models

Linda is a dedicated teacher who's devoted to her students, but she makes a series of fateful mistakes that threatens to destroy her career. It's a bleak reward for a momentary misjudgment, and it's not clear whether she can redeem herself.


A woman fends off a potential mugger with pepper spray. She later uses it on someone during a bitter argument. A father and son have a heated argument.


One somewhat inappropriate sexual encounter between a teacher and a former student; very little is actually shown.


Moderate swearing throughout the film includes "s--t," "f--k," "bitch," "butt," and "bulls--t."


One person uses a Mac laptop. A character seems to have a weakness for Utz potato chips.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A few scenes show adults drinking at a restaurant.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The English Teacher is an indie comedy about a high school teacher who has a series of seemingly small moral lapses (and one big one) that ultimately compromise her character. Expect a few sexual situations -- without any sensitive bits shown -- as well as some swearing ("s--t," "f--k"). Characters argue, and a woman uses pepper spray a couple of times. Some social drinking by adults.

User reviews

Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

Kids say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

What's the story?

Linda Sinclair (Julianne Moore) is THE ENGLISH TEACHER, devoted to her students and living a quiet, solitary life. A chance encounter with a former student (Michael Angarano) changes everything when she learns that he's a frustrated playwright who's written a possible masterpiece. Moved by the script, Linda becomes determined to produce it at her school, despite the administration's opposition. To get the story onto the stage, she finds herself making a series of small moral compromises, and then one significant mistake that may cost her her career. Nathan Lane co-stars as the play's director, and Greg Kinnear is the playwright's father, who may or may not be the inspiration for the tragic and possibly autobiographical story.

Is it any good?


In some ways, The English Teacher is a surprise delight, offering a Moore we've scarcely seen before -- funny, confused, woebegone. If she's paying homage to anyone, it's to Matthew Broderick's well-meaning-but-ultimately-misguided teacher in Election, with which The English Teacher shares many insightful moments. The direction is light handed, the pacing speedy enough to create a frothy, entertaining meditation on art and the ways it's circumvented by good intentions (and on the ways in which writers take great pains to appear miserable to support their image as "artistes").

What the films lacks, however, is depth -- anyone who appreciated dramedies like The Descendants and, yes, Election, can attest to the existence of wisdom in even the most hilarious of set-ups. Who is Linda? What motivates her to do the things she does? Moore makes the most of her role, but the script shies away from bigger questions and neglects the gifts of Kinnear, who plays a dad bearing a reputation darker than he deserves. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Linda's character changes over the course of the film. Does she deserve to be punished for her decisions? Could you consider her a role model?

  • What do you think about the relationship between Jason and his father? Who's really the victim here?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:May 17, 2013
DVD release date:September 3, 2013
Cast:Greg Kinnear, Julianne Moore, Michael Angarano, Nathan Lane
Director:Craig Zisk
Studio:Tribeca Productions
Topics:High school
Run time:91 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language and some sexual content

This review of The English Teacher was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Dark high school comedy is best for older teens.
  • Standout Jack Black in nerds-become-cool comedy.
  • A music teacher inspires his students.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Write a user reviewThere aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Special Needs Guide