Jordan Ross’ mystery thriller, The Tutor follows a man (Garrett Hedlund) who lands a tutoring job to assist what seems to be a rich, snobby teenage boy (Noah Schnapp) needing to do better in his studies. Once the film unfolds, we learn more about what lies beneath the surface with both the student and the teacher.
The opening twenty minutes of the movie almost feels like it could be a comedy, or at least, has comedic elements. Garrett Hedlund plays a character we're not entirely used to seeing him play. He plays Ethan, a seemingly good man with a baby on the way with his girlfriend Annie (played by Victoria Justice,) who works for a company in New York City that employs tutors. One day, an opportunity to tutor a young rich kid and make enough money in one month than what Ethan makes in a year comes up, and he jumps at that opportunity. A tonal shift slowly begins to creep in once he arrives at the mansion. No parents are around, and other rich kids seem up to no good roaming the house. It is here we meet his pupil, Jackson, played by Stranger Things star Noah Schnapp. We notice a shift in Ethan, he’s not this calm cool hipster with a high-paying job. He becomes obsessed with how off-putting Jackson is with his emotional outbursts, and it becomes apparent that Jackson knows something about his tutor that we don’t.
Noah Schnapp has a prominent screen presence, but his overall screen time feels very limited. That is what may hurt the movie — the motivations behind Jackson wanting to toy with Ethan don’t have much of a build-up. However, Schnapp and Hedlund do their absolute best with the material they have to work with, in terms of the tension built between their characters. Some things work, and some don’t. One scene in particular that stands out is the dinner scene where Ethan and Annie are out with friends to celebrate the gender reveal of their baby. Ethan begins to rant about his job, his newest task, and how crazed this teenager is. It just so happens that Jackson is at the restaurant because his family owns it. While It’s a believable situation, it feels like it doesn't fit. The saving grace of those drawbacks is that Noah Schnapp thrives in his role as Jackson. Which is a theme in thrillers most audiences seem to enjoy. If the film were any longer, the film could have further explored the backstory between the two leads. The tonal shifts in all three acts may polarize people, but overall it gives the audience a journey to go on with these two characters.
The Tutor works for a tight ninety-minute film that attempts to load up that run time with tension. If you’re into the high-suspense thrillers of the ‘90s, this may be your jam.
Watch The Tutor