- Director:Philippe Falardeau
- Cast:Mohamed Fellag, Sophie Nélisse, Émilien Néron
- Release Date:September 06, 2012
- Running time:94 minutes
- Film Worth:$18.00
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A deeply moving and deftly handled drama that beautifully walks the line between melodrama and realism.
Canadian director, Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar is a fine drama reminiscent of another French-language title set in a multicultural classroom, Laurent Cantet’s The Class, though it’s far more gentle and uplifting. With terrific performances from adult and child actors alike, it treats its tragic themes with skill and sensitivity.
One bitter Montreal winter’s morning, a primary school teacher is found dead in her classroom; the community reels in shock, while the school scrambles for a replacement. As if by grace, a quiet Algerian named Bachir Lazhar (Mohamed Fellag) appears to fill the position. He has no qualifications, but says that he taught for nineteen years back home. In the classroom, he insists on respect, courtesy and silence when he talks. The students aren’t sure what to make of him, but their grief makes them malleable. Despite his authoritarianism, he shows them compassion and understanding. It turns out that Lazhar has his own woes: early on, we find out that he was the victim of political persecution in Algiers.
We’re not surprised when Lazhar finds success with the kids, but Falardeau makes it work, with a nice balance of melodrama and subdued realism; he lets each scene feel natural, however much it tugs at our emotions. It’s a gorgeous film too: the wintry palette of greys, browns and pale pastels, and the cold, indirect sunlight illuminate the story perfectly. Algerian-French comedian, Mohamed Fellag, carries the film with dignity, his expressive features betraying a well of emotion. We never question how unrealistic it is that an asylum seeker could show up out of nowhere to make a difference in kids’ lives – Monsieur Lazhar never pretends to be anything but a grown-up fable, and it’s a captivating one.