Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Tutor.
first, Jordan Ross‘ teacher It seems to be a pretty straightforward film about a teacher following especially a student with problems. With children on the way and a career that is not exactly one of the highest paid, Ethan (Garrett Hedlund) jumped at the chance of spending an entire week to get young Jackson Platt (Noah Schnapp) prepare for his SATs for a whopping $2,500 a day. What he doesn’t know is that Jackson is the richest kid he’s going to teach—which is saying something, considering that Ethan’s story involves him getting hit by a flyer and being called “white trash.” Throughout his time in the Jackson household, Ethan is repeatedly humiliated through methods that range from awkward conversations about parenthood to outrageous offers of money. But it was when he found a picture of himself just living on Jackson’s laptop, it became clear that Ethan not only had a bad student on his hands, but a stalker, and angry at that. What did he do to invite such anger? Well, nothing really. Or, at least, that’s what the movie – and Ethan – want you to believe.
As is usually the case with psychological thrillers, good or bad, things are in teacher Not what they seem. Ethan and Jackson have a past, one involving affairs and a murder masquerading as a suicide. As the film revealed to us in the last 40 minutes, when Jackson was still a child, Ethan had a fling with his mother, Rachel. However, the relationship did not end well. Rachel was found dead in the water near the family’s lake house, and, although Ethan claimed she had taken her own life, the police found fluid in her lungs. To make matters worse, the autopsy also revealed that she was pregnant. In possession of this information, Jackson believes that Ethan is responsible for his mother’s death and will stop at nothing to avenge him. But were Jackson’s suspicions correct? And he will get back to Ethan? These questions are at the peak of teacherended, and some of their answers are not as simple as one might believe…
Did Ethan really kill Rachel?
Ethan’s problems begin for real after having dinner with his pregnant girlfriend, Annie (Victoria Justice), and a couple of friends at the restaurant. While talking to his new psychology student who is in a bad mood, he is surprised by the presence of Jackson, who supposedly walked across his desk just to say hello. Apparently disappointed with Ethan’s opinion of him, Jackson fueled his obsession with the famous teacher, poisoned the fruit with lamb and tried to drown him in the same lake where Rachel died. He also took pictures of an unconscious Ethan lying in bed with his teenage friends, being kicked out of work by his teacher for injuring his own leg, and going to the police to accuse him of assaulting him on the street. The final blow comes when he tells Annie that he fears she might become like Rachel, which causes her to question Ethan about his past relationship.
Affected by Jackson’s version of events and afraid of who her boyfriend has become, Annie kicks him out of the house. Now living in his car, Ethan tries to find a way to prove his innocence. He goes back to Jackson’s house to find evidence of what was done to him, only to find out that Jackson doesn’t live there: the house actually belongs to the parents of the girl he took the picture with. Arrested for trespassing and facing charges for the wounds on Jackson’s body, Ethan receives a call from his former student asking him to go to the exact spot where Rachel died.
This is where we get our first real clue that Ethan may know more than what he’s telling us. It’s also where Jackson gets his first confirmation that his teacher really did kill his mother years ago, all because Ethan appeared on the dock of the Platts’ lake house. Since Rachel’s body was found elsewhere in the lake and the police report was kept under wraps, only the people who were with her at the time of her death will know the exact moment it happened.
Ethan tries to argue that he only deduced the place where Rachel jumped into the lake because he knows the house belongs to the Platts, but Jackson isn’t having it. With the help of his cousin, Gavin (Johnny Weston), he beats Ethan and tries to make him confess that he killed Rachel. His trump card is the journal that his mother kept throughout the story, in which she wrote about Ethan’s fear and made her hate the way. He reads those messages to Ethan, who jumps up and attacks Gavin, killing him in the process, and tells what everyone knows at this point: he killed Rachel by smashing her head against a wooden board of the pier and dumping her body in the lake.
Does Jackson get revenge on Ethan?
After killing Gavin, Ethan goes out to find Jackson, who takes a conveniently hidden gun and hides himself under the floor of the ship. It’s not a good idea, because Ethan has no problem finding his former student. But while he was beating the drums to force Jackson out of his hiding place, Annie arrived. Because of the agreement regarding the pregnancy, Ethan is constantly sharing his cell phone location with his girlfriend. So, when she sees him somewhere near the lake, which she now knows is where Rachel died, Annie follows him. For a split second, Ethan tries to convince her that Jackson is the one to blame for everything that happened, but she doesn’t believe him. So, Ethan turned against her and threatened to kill her like Rachel. However, at this point, Jackson came out of hiding and shot him in the back. Ethan’s body fell into the lake, never to be found.
As Jackson and Annie wonder if Ethan is really missing, the movie cuts to the scene we saw before, at the beginning, during the photo shoot of many of Ethan’s students. In it, the teacher is talking to a woman who appears to be the mother of one of his students, saying that his methods are related to connections. It is important, he explained, to understand that every child has his own journey with his own unique reward at the end. This time, however, the scene ends with Ethan giving the audience a cynical smile.
There are two ways to interpret this scene. The first is that it’s just a callback to something that happened earlier in the story, an ironic moment where Ethan is unknowingly talking about his own death. After all, that is the unique reward of Jackson’s particular journey. Another possible interpretation is that the film actually begins at the end of it, framing the entire plot as an hour and a half long flashback. In that version of the story, Ethan survived and was free to continue teaching and possibly taking some lives. There is no way to know for sure what happened to him. In the end, we are left in the dark as much as Annie and Jackson.
- Ethan’s life takes a dark turn when he begins tutoring Jackson, a troubled student who turns out to be his follower and seeks revenge for his mother’s death.
- Ethan is accused of killing Jackson’s mother, Rachel, in a murder disguised as a suicide, but the truth is more complicated and unclear.
- The ending leaves Ethan’s fate uncertain, with the possibility that he might survive and continue teaching.