Age: 27
Notable films: A Teacher (2013)

News reports about adult teachers sleeping with their underage high school students are, understandably, often greeted with contempt. "That teacher's disgusting," or, "What kind of low-life would do that?" Upstart writer-director Hannah Fidell isn't about to let secondhand parties get off that easily, though.

In her superb feature debut, A Teacher (opening in limited theaters September 6), Fidell examines loneliness, obsession, and insecurity through the point-of-view of that exact kind of educational figure. Played with powerful command and tragic vulnerability by newcomer Lindsay Burge, A Teacher's protagonist, Diana Watts, has an unhealthy infatuation with one of her students, the hunky and charismatic Eric (Will Brittain), that's explicitly physical.

It'd be easy to dislike Diana, but Fidell's too good of a storyteller to let that happen—any instinct to chastise Diana gets curbed by overwhelming sympathy. Against your better judgment, you want this law-breaker to be OK. —MB