Monsieur Lazhar

It’s not homework or pop quizzes that trouble a group of Montreal schoolkids; it’s that their beloved teacher has hung herself from the classroom ceiling. Well-meaning administrators call in a child psychologist, but the trauma endures, particularly for the volatile student Simon (Émilien Néron), who thinks he’s to blame. Enter Monsieur Lazhar (MohamedFellag), a stately Algerian émigré who appears out of nowhere like an angel (or a vulture) to commandeer the class. His methods may be musty—he head-slaps a child and quotes Zola—but Lazhar encourages the students to talk freely about their emotions. Yet the mysterious educator is less than forthcoming about his own tragedy—or whether he’s even qualified to teach.

A nominee for this year’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, Philippe Falardeau’s drama stakes out an award-season-appropriate middle ground between regional specificity and genre familiarity. The diasporic subtext and evolving French dialect may be Quebecois concerns, but the movie’s racial tensions, clashes of old versus new teaching methods, and classroom breakthroughs are clearly hand-me-downs from familiar heroic-teacher classics like Stand and Deliver. Thankfully, cinematographer Ronald Plante makes long-take magic out of banal locales, while the understated Fellag does for the film what his Lazhar does for the pupils: He’s soothing and entrancingly enigmatic enough to keep us fixed to our seats

Follow Eric Hynes on Twitter: @eshynes

Release details

Rated: PG-13
Duration: 94 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Philippe Falardeau
Screenwriter: Philippe Falardeau
Cast: Mohamed Fellag
Sophie Nélisse
Émilien Néron

Average User Rating

5 / 5

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MA Amiot

This movie is top notch, exquisitely directed. It reaches to all of us in ways that I can't even describe. Especially Simon's outburst which gives childhood more meaning than any movie I've seen in a long time.