Roush Review: 'A Teacher' Delivers a Troubling Life Lesson

A Teacher Kate Mara Nick Robinson Claire Eric
Review
Chris Large/FX

It's the stuff of tabloid headlines and trashy TV-movies: the predatory teacher who sleeps with her student. Graphic sexually — this is FX on Hulu, after all — but also in its unsparing emotional honesty, A Teacher aims to bring unusual depth to this unpleasant subject and largely succeeds.

Still, this is one life lesson that shouldn't have to be taught.

Expanding on Hannah Fidell's 2013 indie film with 10 half-hour episodes — the first three premiere this week, with the remainder dropping on Tuesdays through December 29 — this affecting but troubling series begins innocently enough, when Claire (House of Cards' Kate Mara), a new teacher at a Texas high school, agrees to help prepare Eric (Love, Simon's Nick Robinson), a popular but financially strapped senior who's hoping for a pre-med scholarship, for his SATs.

Sex is the furthest thing from their syllabus, and Claire at first seems capable of fending off his obvious hormones and her unwilling sex dreams. But as she takes him further under her wing, including an ill-advised tour of the nearby UT campus during which she fails to identify herself as his teacher, the mutual attraction becomes harder to deny.

Claire's restlessness in a stagnant marriage and Eric's immature, insecure grasp of toxic masculinity — "I'm the (expletive) man!" he crows after one of their "tutoring sessions" — leads to a series of bad decisions and escalating lies, masquerading as forbidden love. Even in the throes of passion, they know this won't end well. And of course they're right.

Kate Mara on Digging Into Both Points of View of 'A Teacher'-Student AffairSee Also

Kate Mara on Digging Into Both Points of View of 'A Teacher'-Student Affair

In the FX on Hulu series about a high school instructor who falls for her student, viewers don't just get the woman's perspective, but also that of the male victim.

Nearly half of the series dramatizes the painful consequences both face over the next decade: hers mostly legal, his more psychological, as they each try to understand just what happened and why so they can emerge from the shame of this scandal and rebuild their lives.

To their credit, the actors never falter in their commitment to show just how difficult that process will be.

Nick Robinson Kate Mara A Teacher FX Hulu

(Chris Large/FX)

A Teacher, Series Premiere, Tuesday, November 10, FX on Hulu