Release Date: April 13, 2012
Audience: Teenagers and adults
Runtime: 94 minutes
Distributor: Music Box Films
Director: Philippe Falardeau
Executive Producer: None
Writer: Philippe Falardeau
Address Comments To:William Schopf, President
Music Box Films
942 W. Lake Street
Chicago, IL 60607
Phone: (312) 492-9364
The title character, Bachir Lazhar, is a refugee from Algeria whose family was killed by Muslim extremists while he was in Canada planning their escape route. The movie opens with two schoolchildren, Simon and Alice, discovering the locked classroom door behind which their teacher hanged herself.
Lazhar finagles his way into being the substitute teacher for the class. He takes a more traditional approach to teaching the children, but his kindly manner soon ingratiates him with the students.
However, Lazhar soon learns that the grief counseling the children have been getting from the school hasn’t really dealt with their grief. Everyone, from the school administrator to the teachers and the parents, wants to handle the situation behind closed doors.
Because of his own grief for his family, Lazhar can’t help but respond to the children when they reach out to him. By bringing their grief out into the open, old wounds also appear. This causes friction between Lazhar, the school administrator, a couple teachers, and Simon’s parents.
MONSIEUR LAZHAR is an emotionally powerful movie. Even so, it’s not a heavy drama. The filmmakers have inserted some humorous moments into the script to release the tension. This makes the story more natural and not at all heavy-handed. Algerian-born actor Fellag (known for his one-man stage plays) is superb in the title role, as are all his supporting child actors. Their heartfelt performances make the movie come alive.
MONSIEUR LAZHAR is a morally uplifting movie, even though it’s set in a non-religious world. The movie encourages viewers to identify with the pain and grief Mr. Lazhar and his young students are undergoing. Another theme viewers may identify with is Lazhar’s struggle against the stilted, bureaucratic rules in the public school. Though he has a traditional method of teaching, it hasn’t been infected by the kind of modern legalism that’s prevented the children from healing their hurt.
All in all, MONSIEUR LAZHAR deserves the accolades it’s received.
MONSIEUR LAZHAR is an emotionally powerful movie. Even so, it’s not a heavy drama. The filmmakers have inserted some humorous moments to release the tension. MONSIEUR LAZHAR is a morally uplifting movie, even though it’s set in a non-religious context. The movie encourages viewers to identify with the pain and grief Mr. Lazhar and his young students are undergoing. MONSIEUR LAZHAR won the Canadian Oscar and was nominated for an American Oscar. It deserves the accolades it’s received.