The Tutor (2023) – Movie Review
The Tutor gives Garret Hedlund and Noah Schnapp a chance to play victim and avenger. While the film’s suspense and thrills can be underwhelming, the final twist is memorable.
|Screenplay By||Ryan King|
|Date Released (Video On Demand)||May 9, 2023|
|Duration||1 hr, 32 mins|
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Ethan is a tutor. In his cardigan, button-up shirts, glasses, and bookbag, Ethan is the cliche image of an educator. “The Tutor” opens with a montage of Ethan being quite good at his job; helping rich kids advance academically is something Ethan does well. But does he enjoy it? Why does he do it? From the start, we follow Ethan (Garrett Hedlund), the benevolent tutor and the most patient partner to his pregnant girlfriend, Annie (Victoria Justice). But what happens when Ethan meets a challenging student?
Ethan is assigned to tutor Jackson (Noah Schnapp). But he doesn’t know why. Ethan’s not given a record of Jackson’s test scores, report card, or a hint of what Jackson is struggling with in school. In fact, Jackson is able to excel at any academic test Ethan gives him. But there’s something off, something already strained between the two. Jackson lurks in the shadows, but when he makes his presence known, he does so with the intention of making Ethan uncomfortable, submissive, and at his mercy.
Jackson repeatedly tricks Ethan by bribing him, recording him, and eventually drugging Ethan and blackmailing him with scandalous pictures. Ethan’s life slowly unravels, and as it does so, the tutor becomes more unhinged and bent on revenge against this privileged teen. Why the two are so passionately against one another remains a mystery until Ethan’s scandalous life before his time as a tutor is revealed.
“The Tutor” is a slow-burning thriller with an impressive performance from Garrett Hedlund as victim, hero, and villain. While the movie’s suspense and revelations can be underwhelming, the movie submerges the audience in a twist that makes for memorable viewing.
Things To Note
Why Is “The Tutor” Rated R
- Dialogue: Brief moments of strong profanity
- Violence: Mild, but gun violence in the third act
- Sexual Content: Brief sensuality and photos of sex, but nothing explicit
- Miscellaneous: Talk of suicide.
Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.
A tutor for wealthy children who struggle academically. While patient and kind on the surface, Ethan has a quiet, boiling loathing for his job.
A cunning, privileged teen who enjoys playing malicious games on his tutor, Ethan. Yet Jackson believes his treatment of Ethan is justified based on a personal family loss.
Ethan’s pregnant girlfriend, who’s frustrated by Ethan’s job taking him away, but also suspicious of his whereabouts after a past infidelity in their relationship.
Jackson’s cousin and close confidant. Gavin is equally rich, careless, and menacing.
Our Rating: Mixed (Divisive)
Garret Hudland has a minimalist, mild-mannered approach to Ethan. But through his unassuming demeanor, he tricks the audience into empathizing with an eventual monster. It’s a deceptive performance executed well by Hudland, taking the viewer deeper into Ethan’s psyche.
A Twist That Changes the Genre and Makes For an Intriguing Rewatch
By the end of “The Tutor,” Ethan admits to killing Jackson’s mom, Rachel Platt. The Tutor becomes a monster. The person we’ve been following for the entirety of the film as the protagonist is actually Jackson’s antagonist. While the film briefly includes tropes from subgenres like “creepy child” suspense and “revenge mystery” thriller, it provides a different lens and an entirely new perspective on Ethan’s journey by having him confess to murder.
On The Fence
Strange Camera Choices Dull Tension and Lessen Impact of Twists
Some of the most revealing and tense moments in “The Tutor” are dulled by medium and wide shots that keep us distant from the emotion. For example, when Jackson starts to punish himself for a wrong answer by punching his thighs, his punches are blurred in the foreground for a shot of Ethan’s reaction in the back. The sudden violence is more confusing in an unintentional way due to the coverage used. When Annie confronts Ethan’s strange behavior, a wide shot keeps us from really witnessing the pain or frustration on their faces. For a mystery, we need to understand what’s at stake and what the characters are thinking, but some camera choices in “The Tutor” do not fully allow that and make some pivotal moments feel like a shrug.
Film Has Unclear Grasp of Jackson
While Ethan’s arc is clear, Jackson’s intentions and capabilities remain murky. While Schnapp plays the awkward rich boy well, he struggles with Jackson’s outbursts and hatred. He wears disgust well on his face, but he cannot muster the torment of someone who truly believes this man killed his mother. How he gathers empathy from others is also unclear, as we never get to see how he frames his side of the story. If Jackson wants pure revenge for his mom’s death or enjoys the torment of a man, these questions are left unanswered. Ambiguity works in some films, but the third act makes us follow a teen we don’t fully understand or care for.
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