Director: Hannah Fidell
Stars: Lindsay Burdge, Will Brittain, Jennifer Prediger, Julie Dell Phillips, Jonny Mars, Chris Doubek

As the old saying goes—and the prophetic Nasir Jones once turned this into a song title—no idea's original.

When it comes to storytelling, what matters is how one gets to the heart of a narrative, not the narrative itself. Case in point: Hannah Fidell's taut character study A Teacher. It's centered around a familiar concept, that of an attractive high school instructor conducting a secret love affair with one of her male students. Notes on a Scandal, much?

Yet, regardless of her script's surface-level familiarities, Fiddell's devastating knockout of a motion picture (which first caught a strong buzz during January's Sundance Film Festival) never feels rudimentary. Creating a pair of believable, honest characters, she's delivered a controlled and intricately volatile moment in time: the phase of the student/teacher relationship in which one person's sexual interest transforms into infatuation.

Ms. Diana Watts (newcomer Lindsay Burdge in a powerhouse turn) is an Austin, TX, high school English teacher whose obsession with likable hunk Eric (the equally strong Will Brittain) is leaving her in a perpetual state of on-the-verge internal combustion. Fidell takes full advantage of Burge's dynamite face, keeping the camera fastened on Burge's reaction to news of a freshman female's recently discovered, topless camera phone pic (which brings to mind a photo Watts took for Eric). Burge conveys near eruption without so much as blinking.

As A Teacher swiftly moves towards its intelligent and downbeat resolution, Fiddell captures a mood that's reminiscent of Michael Haneke's similarly dour The Piano Teacher—and that's one lofty compliment. Once her film receives its Labor Day release via Oscilloscope Laboratories, you'll appreciate the comparison.

Also Watch