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Why has Miller’s Girl provoked controversy?

Martin Freeman and Jenna Ortega star in a steamy student-teacher thriller

Martin Freeman and Jenna Ortega sit on a sofa in a scene from Miller’s Girl
Martin Freeman and Jenna Ortega star in Miller’s Girl. (Lionsgate)

Even if you haven’t seen Jenna Ortega and Martin Freeman in Miller’s Girl just yet odds are you’ve already read about it online or seen it doing the rounds on your social media channels.

Written and directed by Jade Halley Bartlett in her filmmaking debut, the movie chronicles a steamy, school-set romance between a professor and his student after the former sets the latter a writing assignment.

That’s the gist of its plot but it’s not the reason why Bartlett’s film has got people talking online. Read on to learn more about the controversies surrounding Miller’s Girl and how its stars have responded.

Miller's Girl. (Lionsgate)
Jenna Ortega plays a student who seduces her teacher. (Lionsgate)

Despite being co-produced by Superbad’s Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, Miller’s Girl couldn’t be further in tone from the wild comedies that the pair usually attach their names to.

Instead, Bartlett’s movie introduces us to the 18-year-old Cairo (Ortega) as she embarks on a creative writing class during her senior year of High School.

Here she meets her new teacher Jonathan Miller (Freeman), a published author with wider literary aspirations who finds himself instead teaching high school.

Determined to impress him with her knowledge of the written word, Cairo and Mr Miller soon find themselves entangled in a forbidden romantic relationship.

According to the film’s official synopsis, “As lines blur and their lives intertwine, professor and protégé must confront their darkest selves while straining to preserve their individual sense of purpose and the things they hold most dear.”

Miller’s Girl did not have a cinema release in the UK, but was released digitally on 19 February. It is available to buy and rent on digital platforms including Prime Video, Sky Cinema and Apple TV.

Watch a trailer for the film below:

Martin Freeman stands in the rain in a scene from Miller’s Girl
Martin Freeman has responded to the online discussion about the film. (Lionsgate)

The illicit teacher-student love story is at the heart of the controversy surrounding Miller’s Girl, particularly when it comes to the film’s sex scenes, with audiences shocked at the 31-year age gap between Freeman and his co-star Ortega.

After the topic prompted online chatter, one of its stars recently addressed the issue during a new interview, with Freeman pointing out that the movie’s depiction of the duo’s on-screen romance was both “grown-up and nuanced.”

Speaking to The Sunday Times, the Sherlock star added: “It’s not saying, ‘Isn’t this great?’” He pointed towards other movie's depictions of troubling topics, like Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List, saying: “Are we going to have a go at Liam Neeson for being in a film about the Holocaust?”

While Ortega is yet to comment herself, the film’s intimacy coordinator, Kristina Arjona, told the Daily Mail that the star was comfortable with shooting these intimate scenes.

“There was many, many people throughout this process, engaging with [Jenna] to make sure that it was consistent with what she was comfortable with, and she was very determined and very sure of what she wanted to do,” explained Arjona. “I’m hyper-aware of both of my talent and making sure that we’re consistently checking in and that at no point are any of their boundaries being surpassed.”

That said, since these comments were made, SAG-AFTRA changed its policies to state that intimacy coordinators must maintain confidentiality regarding the creation of intimate scenes unless they have the permission of the stars involved.

Miller’s Girl is available to buy and rent online