A veteran high school teacher befriends a younger art teacher, who is having an affair with one of her 15-year-old students. However, her intentions with this new "friend" also go well beyond platonic friendship.
The bitter, cynical and lonely Barbara Covett is a tough and conservative teacher, near to retirement, who is loathed by her colleagues and students. In the loneliness of her apartment, she spends her spare time writing her journal, taking care of her old cat Portia and missing her special friend Jennifer Dodd. When Sheba Hart joins the high-school as the new art teacher, Barbara dedicates her attention to the newcomer, writing sharp and unpleasant comments about her behavior and clothes. When Barbara helps Sheba in a difficult situation with two students, the grateful Sheba invites her to have lunch with her family. Sheba introduces her husband and former professor Richard Hart, who is about twenty years older than she; her rebellious teenager daughter Polly; and her son Ben that has Down's Syndrome. Barbara becomes close to Sheba, but when she accidentally discovers that Sheba is having an affair with the fifteen year-old student Steven Connolly, Barbara sees the chance to ... Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Steven is stated as being fifteen years old and in Year 10. Pupils become fifteen during Year 10 (except in exceptional circumstances). Later in the film, Sheba states that he is going to be sixteen in May, i.e. he was already fifteen before entering Year 10. See more »
[voiceover of Barbara writing in her diary]
People trust me with their secrets. But who do I trust with mine? You, only you.
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Every film should aspire to be as satisfying as this one is - on every level, and there are so many layers to it all. Nothing is as it appears and the film unwinds in the form of comments and voice-overs from the many journals of the protagonist.
Judi Dench, yet again, sinks her teeth into the part of Barbara Covett, a cynical and acerbic history teacher putting in time in an inner city school.
Enter Cate Blanchett, playing Sheba Hart, the new art teacher, fragile, naive, innocent and hopeful. Or is she? Barbara quickly ensconces herself into Sheba's life, becoming confidante and friend.
And then the plot thickens and assumes the intensity of a thriller as Sheba's life starts to fall apart, secretly abetted by Barbara. The tension does not let up until the very last frame and the viewer is never quite sure where this ride is going.
Sheba and Barbara are very alike at their cores, there is a fragile 'fatal attraction' theme running through their relationship, shadowed by Sheba's impossible affair with a fifteen year old boy which is in turn shadowed by her Down's Syndrome son who is of an age with her student, and again this is shadowed by her daughter's coming of age love troubles and overall the shadow of her own marriage to a much older man, who left his wife and children for her teenage self. I found all of these themes winding again and again throughout the film. The characters are fully rounded and indeed are also shown happy in the bosoms of their individual families but with a distance portrayed as if they are never quite sure of their places within them - always a distraction and secrets.
Barbara has her shadows too and they start to trickle through and become more vocalized and by others, as the stories unfold.
Enough said without spoilers. Bill Nighy, as Sheba's husband ably enhances the two astonishing performances of the female leads.
Movie making at its finest. This is being shown in two theatres in the same complex where I saw it and both were packed. It is very heartening to see a character driven and challenging movie being so popular.
10 out of 10. Superlative, down to the music by Philip Glass.
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