Starring Mohamed Fellag
Written & Directed by Pierre Falardeau
With the new releases coming out fast and furious it can be easy to over look some very interesting and important films. Opening today exclusively from our friends at eOne films is a Canadian film that had a successful run at this year’s edition of the Toronto International Film Festival, has been nominated for 9 Genies and was recently nominated for best foreign film at the Oscar ceremony scheduled for next month. It’s time to meet “Monsieur Lazhar”
“Monsieur Lazhar” takes us to a Montreal area elementary school where one night after class one of the teacher’s commits suicide; she is subsequently replaced by Bachir Lazhar (Fellag), an Algerian immigrant seeking political refuge in Quebec. As Lazhar introduces traditional teaching methods to his new class, he begins to develop close relationships with two of his pupils: a boy traumatized by his discovery of the former teacher’s body, and a girl whose interpretation of the event provokes unforeseen revelations.
Having already opened in Montreal, this is the first wave as this film rolls out Canada wide. Philippe Falardeau’s tale of grief and acceptance is both heartbreaking and heartwarming as the role of the modern day teacher is examined in depth. With the outsider’s view in today’s school system we see how preventative measures have made the teaching process, interacting and molding young minds into a bit of a cold and dispassionate process. The story isn’t told in bold sweeping melodrama, but it is realistic and restrained as these characters interact and try to overcome their varying degrees of grief depending on their individual situations. Falardeau takes what could be overtly emotional material and boils it down into realistic reactions never overhyping anyone aspect of the story for theatrical purposes and this is ultimately to his credit as he keeps the entire story grounded and real.
Mohamed Fellag is charming in the title role as the immigrant teacher dealing with his own separate grief who simply wants to help the faculty and students of this school heal, unaware of the social stigmas and difficulties that most teachers face of genuinely trying to be there for their students. He makes his Monsieur Lazhar human, a man simply looking to help others in order to help himself. The balance of the supporting cast was simply wonderful, especially the two lead children Sophie Nelisse as Alice and Emilen Neron as Simon; both are strong young actors who delivered well rounded thought out performances as the children struggling with their grief the most.
At the end of the day; “Monsieur Lazhar” is a well made, and well told human story that gives you the stakes in realistic terms rather than sweeping swells of cinematic drama. Catch it before the Academy Awards ceremony next month so we can cheer on Canada along with the best that the cinema of the world has to offer.
4 out of 5 stars.
“Monsieur Lazhar” is playing now at the TIFF Bell Lightbox here in Toronto; click here for a list of show times.
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