What You Need To Know:
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.
(BB, H, L, V, A, D, M) Strong moral worldview generating compassion throughout the story, though set in a non-religious humanist world, but humanism isn’t preached; three profanities and one GD; talk about suicide and a terrorist act, and drawing of noose on picture of suicide victim, plus students play King of the Hill and playfully throw a couple things at one another; no sex; no nudity; light alcohol use; smoking; and, teacher clashes with parents of one child, a very subtle dig against European colonialism in Northern Africa (people forget that it was the Arabs and Muslims who brought their own colonialism and slavery into Africa before the Europeans established themselves there), and legalism but rebuked implicitly.
MONSIEUR LAZHAR was Canada’s entry in the Oscars this year. It’s a poignant French Canadian movie about the effect of a teacher’s suicide on a group of schoolchildren and the substitute teacher from Algeria who tries to help them handle their grief.
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.