Blue Car focuses on Meg (Agnes Bruckner), a reflective high school student facing a difficult family life of divorced parents, a mother who has a lousy job and leaves Meg to care for her younger sister. Meg finds some release from these difficulties while taking a creative writing course with Mr. Auster (David Strathairn), a charismatic teacher who begins to show an interest in her work, siezing upon her memories of her father leaving her mother which she associates with the image of a blue car in her writing. He offers Meg encouraging feedback, telling her to “dig deeper.”
Viewers see quickly that Auster is drawn to Meg’s vulnerability, and he begins creating situations in which the two can be alone together, building an intimacy between them. Auster pushes Meg to enter a national poetry contest, creating a situation in which they can share lunch alone in his classroom in order for her to work on her poetry. He gives her a ride home from school when she misses the bus. He leaves chocolate wrapped to look like a blue car. He reads a section of his novel that we later learn he cribbed from Rilke (I didn’t recognize the lines), but for most of the film, Auster avoids acting on his sexual impulses (in this sense, the film uses Strathairn’s restrained persona very effectively).
But the film is more than a cautionary story about predatory teachers who take advantage of emotionally vulnerable students. Instead, the film seems to address the complexities of growing up under difficult circumstances, and her teacher’s behavior is just one of many crises Meg faces over the course of the film. In general, this is a solid, serious film that deserves a much wider audience, and it left me wanting to discuss it, and the questions it raised, with others who have seen it.
By the way, Miramax’s marketing of this film was rather disappointing. Rather than portray the film’s themes effectively, Miramax chose to use a lurid cover showing a teen girl from the neck down wearing a Lolita-type outfit (unlike anything Meg ever wore in the film) with a soundbite comparing the film to American Beauty. Instead of marketing the film on its many strengths, they go for cheap thrills. I actually resisted the film for several weeks because of this cheap packaging.