Director: Philippe Falardeau
Cast: Mohamed Saïd Fellag, Émilien Néron, Sophie Nélisse
Screenplay: Philippe Falardeau
Story: Évelyne de la Chenelière
Since most Indian moviegoers have an abiding hostility to anything resembling class, it’s unlikely the savages will watch or enjoy a gem like Monsieur Lazhar.
Based on Évelyne de la Chenelière’s play Bashir Lazhar, Monsieur Lazhar is a splendid French paean to the world of movies.
The film is set in Montreal but with a story that transcends borders or even time.
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The main character Bashir Lazar is a middle-school school teacher and a recent arrival to Canada from his native Algeria.
Like Bashir, his students too come from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
But Monsieur Lazhar is not a movie where ethnic origins takes center stage.
Nor is it a documentary about a school masquerading as a feature film.
So what then is the movie about?
You really want to know?
Monsieur Lazhar is about a tragic slice of life within the framework of a classroom.
In fact, it’d be more accurate to describe Monsieur Lazhar as an intersection of tragedies.
As often happens in life, one person’s tragedy is another’s opportunity.
The death of a young school teacher Martine within the classroom under unusual circumstances opens the doors for the new immigrant Bashir (Mohamed Saïd Fellag) to join the school as her replacement under false pretenses.
No matter that the classroom walls have been been painted a different color and a psychologist brought in to help the young students handle the difficult circumstance of their teacher’s death, Martine’s death continues to cast a dark shadow over the class.
Particularly over young Simon (Émilien Néron) and his friend Alice (Sophie Nélisse).
And ultimately over their teacher Bashir Lazhar too.
The movie moves with infinite grace toward the tragedy of its denouement, a tragedy no less in magnitude than the one at the outset.
After all, is forced separation from those you care for not another form of death?
The acting is excellent and the screenplay by director Philippe Falardeau remarkable in its power to engage the viewer.
Mohamed Saïd Fellag (of Algerian origin but now a resident of France) is a fine actor and delivers a commanding performance as the school teacher subduing his personal tragedies to care for his students.
For Indian moviegoers sick of watching children who are monstrous in their inability to act, it’s a delight to watch these young kids deliver an extraordinarily realistic performance.
Not for one moment do you feel that these classroom depictions are all make-believe, just scenes in a movie.
The young boy Simon’s emotional outburst toward the end was very well handled.
Young Sophie Nélisse reminded me of the French actress Nina Kervel-Bey in Blame it on Fidel.
Both girls were around 10 when their respective films were made.
Both showed an amazing intensity and maturity in their performances that is remarkable for their tender age.
Not surprisingly, Monsieur Lazhar has won several accolades including the Best Foreign Picture nomination at the 84th Academy Awards (it lost out to the Iranian film A Separation).
SearchIndia.com strongly recommends Monsieur Lazhar in the 100% certainty that not one of you putzheads will even consider watching this gem.