How entertaining? ★★★★☆
Thought provoking? ★★☆☆☆
4 May 2012
This article is a review of MONSIEUR LAZHAR.
“It isn’t my fault, right?” Simon
Opening on a snowy schoolyard, we watch in one take as a primary school kid discovers the body of his teacher through the window of their classroom, and the immediate reaction of the school. Alice and Simon are the only children who witness the situation firsthand. The class are 11 and 12 year olds, with one held back a year. Bachir Lazhar (Mohamed Fellag) just turns up to take the post of supply teacher, even though the job is not advertised. There is something savvy and mysterious about someone doing that. It might seem cold, but Fellag brings warmth and authority, which allay Machiavellian misgivings. As the film progresses Lazhar’s background is drip-fed to us. He is an exotic addition to the class and staffroom. From Algeria, his reasons for being in Quebec, Canada are tantalising revealed. The film’s writer-director Philippe Falardeau is a talent to watch. The drama is quietly compelling; slowly illuminating the characters that the titular lead touches.
There is much being explored, themes of bereavement, companionship, compassion; building to an emotional conclusion miraculously devoid of mawkishness. Cracking scripting and acting, and a non-signposted conclusion, what more do you want?