A tense pupil/teacher meeting trying to establish who has been thieving at a school is only the first scene in a film that from its initial premise doesn’t appear to have the torque of a thriller.

Its soon established that Carla (Leonie Benesch), a new teacher at a junior school has the pupils as her prime concern. An attitude that has annoyed her colleagues who see her as a little aloof and not much of a team player.

With lots of issues skirting around the film it settles on a situation that arises when Clara accuses school administrator Friederike Kuhn (Eva Löbau) of theft. One that possibly implicates her with others in the school. She denies stealing money from the teacher although there’s evidence presented, albeit dubiously gathered.

Taking her son Oskar (Leonard Stettnisch) out of school, sets his classmates tongues wagging to the extent that any trust that Clara had starts to disappear. That’s compounded by her continual siding with the pupils even when they have turned against her, that splits with her colleagues.

This is a complex story that looks to cover maybe too much to start within the school though many can be easily translated to other environments be they work or social. Covering as it does racism, favouritism, fracture and then factions.

The pupils have a fair amount of leverage through their presence on school councils and with their own newspapers providing them with a tool to set and possibly manipulate the agenda. There is little doubt that Oskar sets out to undermine Carla once his attempt to set things right fail.

Intertwined with all this are other issues such as the stink of racism/racial profiling when a Turkish pupil is suspected of the thefts because he has a large amount of money in his wallet that his parents had given him. His parents non to impressed at being called to the school to explain this.

The direction by Ilker Çatak, (co-written with Johannes Duncker) is remarkable employing a semi-documentary approach while ratcheting up the tension and anticipation as the issues begin to pile up on Carla. This element draws comparison with the best of thrillers enhanced by Marvin Miller’s string grounded score.

There’s also a focus on Oskar, an unsympathetic character to start with, and one whose actions are understandable though very questionable and possibly driven by more than loyalty to his mother: Çatak and Duncker leave a lot of space for the viewer to ponder some of these things.

Having said that character development is mainly limited to Carla. She has Polish parentage, hinting at some degree of embarrassment over this, and that she may have mental health issues, though this is not pursued Carla may appear overly earnest at times, but Benesch doesn’t overplay this, and sympathy remains with her, most of the time.

The Teacher’s Lounge will in UK cinemas from 12 April 2024.