Miss Stevens is a 29 year old high school English teacher taking 3 students on a weekend away for drama club. Student Sam (Anthony Quintal) is bright and sensitive and dedicated. Margot (Lili Reinhart) is studious and uptight. Billy (Timothee Chalamet) is “having trouble caring about a lot of things” – a kid with behavioural problems Miss Stevens is supposed to keep an eye on, but actually he’s the one she most relates to. And it doesn’t seem like she relates to much these days. Outside of the classroom, Miss Stevens (Lily Rabe) is sloppier, less responsible, more potty-mouthed. And on this drama outing in particular, she seems to let her guard down.
Julia Hart is a super talented director who I might never have known if not for touring around to various film festivals. She makes beautiful, sad, detailed films about strong women. Miss Stevens is such a character. As chaperone, she’s discovering that this whole “coming of age” thing isn’t just for teenagers – you do it first when you actually become the age of majority, and a second time when your adulthood really takes. For Miss Stevens, it is perhaps only truly gelling now, on this trip, as the only grown-up jumping on the hotel bed.
Life is hard. Miss Stevens is fragile. But the fact that she’s navigating these conflicting things, and the spongy, tricky thing that is friendship between students and teachers, means she is growing and learning and becoming the self she’s supposed to be. And it’s kind of amazing to see something so authentic on the screen. This movie is small but perfect in its smallness, uniquely positioned to bring out those tiny intimacies that string us together in life.
Lily Rabe is terrific in this, heart breaking and complex and frustrating and real. Timothee Chalamet proves that he’s got star-making stuff up his sleeve. Everyone and everything just comes together to make this movie mature and fascinating, balanced and natural, intimate but familiar. Check it out.