The English Teacher

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The English Teacher Movie Poster Image
Devoted teacher makes a fateful mistake in solid comedy.
  • R
  • 2013
  • 91 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

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 & Representations

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.

What 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.

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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. 

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love high school stories

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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