Netflix UK film review: Miss Stevens
Georgina Smith | On 26, Apr 2019
Director: Julia Hart
Cast: Lily Rabe, Timothée Chalamet, Lili Reinhart
Watch Miss Stevens online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
Every month, we highlight films directed by women on Netflix UK. We call it Women on Netflix.
Part-road trip comedy, part-intimate teen drama, Miss Stevens follows the titular English teacher (Lily Rabe) as she chaperones three students to a weekend-long drama competition. Timothee Chalamet plays Billy, a quiet boy with a reputation for being a troublemaker and an infatuation with his English teacher. He tries to act on it over the weekend, as he falls more and more for Miss Stevens.
Although the film focuses on them, Lili Reinhart and Anthony Quintal give strong performances as fellow pupils Margot and Sam. With the little material are given, they are responsible for most of the film’s more light-hearted moments. Reinhart, in particular, really shines as a young girl who appears almost overly confident but is actually quite unsure of herself. At some points, she seems to judge Miss Stevens, while at others, she almost seems to want to be her. It’s an interesting look at the potentially complicated relationship between teacher and student from a different perspective, and it would have been good to see this relationship explored as much as the relationship between Miss Stevens and Billy.
Rabe is the star of the film, constantly walking the tightrope between being her students’ teacher or their friend. It is obvious she is uneasy out of the classroom, struggling to speak with people as she is so used to speaking at them. She is clearly aware of Billy’s feelings towards her and constantly tries to keep their relationship professional, even when he seems to be the only person that can get any kind of emotional reaction from her. Chalamet gives an excellent performance, quietly restrained and almost disinterested in the first two-thirds of the film, before an emotional explosion at the film’s climax. Billy’s rendition of a monologue from Death Of A Salesman for a drama competition is absolutely electric, and hints at the star Chalamet would go on to become.
For a debut film, director Julia Hart approaches Miss Stevens with a quiet confidence; every shot feels purposeful, and every individual moment is given the space and time it needs to land perfectly. There’s an intimacy and realism to her approach that helps to bring the characters to life, so by the end of the film, the audience is left feeling like they are a part of its universe, like Miss Stevens is their English teacher, like Margot is the slightly annoying girl in their class and like Billy is their school’s quiet bad boy. It’s a charmingly honest depiction of the student-teacher relationship that could so easily veer into inappropriate territory, but Hart keeps it on course, instead crafting a film that will stay with you for a long time after viewing.
Miss Stevens is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.