The Lesson

This 2014 Bulgarian drama is essentially a James M. Cain-style noir thriller dressed up as Dardenne-style social realism. Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov, directing their own script, don’t have as much to say about the European Union’s ongoing economic crisis as they let on, but it becomes the backdrop for a classic tale of an ordinary person pushed to desperate measures. The heroine is a tightly wound schoolteacher plagued by bad luck: her deadbeat husband has secretly run her into debt, the bank is days away from auctioning off her possessions, and she still can’t identify which of her students stole her wallet weeks earlier. Things get even more dire from there, and the kinetic yet poker-faced filmmaking renders the narrative turns especially jolting. In English and subtitled Bulgarian.