Marking the directorial debut for Julia Hart, Miss Stevens finds Lily Rabe playing a high school teacher taking three of her students to a state drama competition on her own for the weekend. What most will take away from the film is just how fantastic of an actress Lily Rabe is, who hasn’t really been able to shine yet outside of the television world. Rabe manages to carry this mostly humdrum tale into something that is worth seeing just because of her performance. Her ability of presenting a different front to each and every character is something that not too many actresses can do, but she manages to pull this off in such a remarkably subtle fashion.
Behind the camera, Hart is still working into her directorial focus as the film progresses. It’s clear as Miss Stevens goes on that the directing is gradually improving as everything begins to feel more and more aesthetically developed and in tune with each other. For example, the beginning compositions lack a general sense of natural presentation, which set me aback since it never felt like I was watching real people interact with one another. As the film progresses and the actors familiarize with each other even more, the general sense of fluidity begins to sink in.
What bothered me the most was how many of plot points end up getting dropped or going nowhere. Reflecting back on it, this feels like filler to muster up Miss Stevens to becoming a full-length feature, but in reality, this material seems much more suited to being a lengthier short film, which would have undoubtedly been so much better.