(director/writer: Jade Halley Bartlett; cinematographer: Daniel Brothers; editor: Vanara Taing; music: Elyssa Samsel; cast: Martin Freeman (Jonathan Miller), Jenna Ortega (Cairo Sweet), Bashir Salahuddin (Boris Fillmore), Gideon Adlon (Winnie Black), Dagmar Dominczyk (Beatrice June Harker), Christine Adams (Joyce Manor); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, James Weaver, Josh Fagen, Mary-Margaret Kunze; Lionsgate; 2024)

“About as steamy as a bowl of cold noodles.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A minimally driven psychological thriller that’s competently written and directed by the female filmmaker Jade Halley Bartlett, in her feature film debut. The movie is about an inappropriate relationship between an 18-year-old student, Cairo Sweet (Jenna Ortega, Wednesday actress), and her 52-year-old teacher, Jonathan Miller (Martin Freeman, Hobbit actor), which is however unfulfilling.

Miller is a failed writer who now is a high school creative writing teacher in a small town in Tennessee. He is married to his neglectful alcoholic wife Beatrice (Dagmar Dominczyk).

Cairo Sweet (Jenna Ortega) is the new student who looks up to the needy teacher. She’s a talented writer and admirably a reader in the classics, who favors the erotic novels of Henry Miller. They appeal to each other and he becomes her mentor.

Cairo’s student friend Winnie (Gideon Adlon), who failed to seduce the school’s baseball coach (Bashir Salahuddin) after exciting him, talks her into seducing her mentor. The manipulative tease, Cairo, thereby leaves hints to the teacher she’s available for an affair.

There are numerous boring conversations between the two unsympathetic characters, in this tedious film that is about as steamy as a bowl of cold noodles.

Miller becomes aware of her availability but takes a pass, and she becomes vindictive and falsely reports him as making sexual advances.

The lovers have little chemistry together,

But it might be the grating voice-over narration by Ortega that’s even more obnoxious than the scene of the teacher masturbating over his student’s term paper.

The off-putting film at least gets a decent performance from Freeman.

Its most irritating moments
might be Ortega’s grating narration.