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Monsieur Lazhar

Monsieur Lazhar

Released 4 May 2012
Director Philippe Falardeau

Mohamed Fellag, Sophie Nélisse, Émilien Néron, Marie-Eve Beauregard, Vincent Millard, Danielle Proulx
Writer(s) Philippe Falardeau
Producer(s) Luc Déry, Kim McCraw
Origin Canada
Running Time 94 minutes
Genre Drama
Rating TBC

Taught well.

When a film is constructed properly, with care, an honest approach and sincerity, there can be a wonderful experience of watching something that is inspiring. Movies that entertain, thrill and move us are relatively easy to find but ones that can share powerful material in a genuine and heartfelt manner are somewhat more of a rarity. Monsieur Lazhar falls into this category.

Bachir Lazhar arrives at an everyday primary school as a replacement for his predecessor, who shockingly hung herself in the classroom following struggles with her profession. The entire class of eleven and twelve year-olds struggle to come to terms with the reality of such a haunting scenario but Simon and Alice, who witnessed their apparent role model lifeless from the ceiling, are particularly affected. Lazhar has his own problems, fearing for his own safety he fled Algeria after a terrorist attack that resulted in the deaths of his wife and children.

Together, Monsieur Lazhar and his pupils, in the face of political bureaucracy within the school and external meddling from narrow-minded parents, set about healing each others’ wounds in the short space of time they have available together, learning the rights, wrongs and realities of an often harsh life.

This film is about dealing with the tragedy of loss but being strong enough to learn from, not to mention develop, values and morals. Granted, by all accounts this sounds preachy, doesn't it? It's not! Directed and acted with a refined, subtle approach the slow-burning but never dull drama offers increasing opportunities of reflection with each passing scene.

The relationship and friendship developed by Monsieur Lazhar and Alice, his favourite in the class, is undoubtedly the highlight – indeed, Sophie Nélisse's acting at such a young age is incredibly powerful and, more importantly, believable. The fact that this is a foreign language film will inevitably have the tendency to put many punters off but don't let it. Monsieur Lazhar is an absolute gem.

- David Caulfield