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Bachir Lazhar, an Algerian immigrant, is hired to replace an elementary school teacher who died tragically. While the class goes through a long healing process, nobody in the school is aware of Bachir's painful former life; nor that he is at risk of being deported at any moment. Adapted from Evelyne de la Cheneliere's play, Bachir Lazhar depicts the encounter between two distant worlds and the power of self-expression. Using great sensitivity and humor, Philippe Falardeau follows a humble man who is ready to transcend his own loss in order to accompany children beyond the silence and taboo of death. —micro_scope
Monsieur Lazhar is based on a play by Evelyne de la Cheneliere and it is a Canadian film in French with English subtitles. The film is about an immigrant from Algeria named Bachir Lazhar, who applies for a job at the local elementary school when there is a position open. In desperate need of a new teacher, the school hires him and Bachir starts shortly after. He is teaching a grade six class and what he was not prepared for is that several of the students are still in a state of grief because the previous teacher died and they were all quite attached to her and that is why the position was open and how he got the job. Bachir has a different teaching method than the class's previous teacher and a lot of what he says and does seems different to the students and a lot of what the curriculum and how the students behave and just life in Canada in general is somewhat strange to Bachir, having lived most of his life in Algeria. Putting those differences beside, Bachir tries to move on and be the best teacher that he can and soon he starts to warm up to the children in his class and he seems to get through to several of them as well and they start to really like him. However both at school in his classroom and even in his personal life, Bachir will have to deal with memories from the past, both of his own and his students and teach them how to grieve and deal with death as he has to face some of his own demons and personal problems as well. Over the years there have been many films made about inspirational teachers who win over classrooms of at once reluctant, or delinquent students only to have a big happy ending at the end. Some of those type of films have worked in the past and some have not. However, I find that it is a premise and plot device that has been used perhaps too often in films and is starting to get predictable and clichéd. I am very happy to say that Monsieur Lazhar avoided all that and went through a different formula with it's storytelling. Yes, it is about a teacher who has to win over his students, but there is so much more to the story as well. For one thing everything in this Montreal town in Quebec, is very foreign to Bachir, but he has a lot of self esteem and determination to set out and do his best for not only himself, but his students as well. He wants to leave behind his troubled past and start something new, which is hard at first, but he is giving his best effort to make it work. In dealing with the children he has a calm and very likable quality to him when he is teaching them. He generally also wants what is best for his students and for them to succeed not only in his class, but further along in life as well. What prevents this from coming together is the painful memories of the student's beloved first teacher who died just before Bachir, took the job. The school has counselors come in and the parents all try to do their best with the children and help them with the grief, guilt, sadness and other emotions that they are feeling, but unbeknownst to all of them, that the one who can truly relate to this incident and be the most help to the children at this time is Bachir, who is just getting to know the children and has never met the previous teacher, or really know anything about her. Putting the cultural and personal differences beside, he can reach these children in surprising and uplifting ways. This is a film just as much about death and how it not only affects children, but everyone else as well. How the film shows the different individuals trying to cope with it and how it doesn't always work, or perhaps takes more time for some than others, is an accurate picture and more lifelike and precise which I also appreciated about the film. The film plays everything quite quiet and low key, but the emotion we get out of the actors, and from the great script and direction is priceless. I felt extremely moved by the end of this film and felt that I got to know these characters and share their grief, heartaches and also loves and happiness. Bachir, himself is also a very interesting character with kind eyes and a warm smile and I really got to like him and his character throughout the movie. He is brilliantly played by Mohamed Fellag, who does a quiet and low key character, but with a lot of depth and feeling. It's a great performance. The performances from all the children are great in here as well. I liked this film because I think so many people will be able to relate and connect to it on several different levels, but we are also given a tremendous piece of entertainment to go along with it. I liked that this film took chances with what it talked about and showed us and ends up turning out to be quite relevant and relatable. The film will probably please most adult viewers and older teens may get a lot out of it as well. Even a day after seeing this film I still thought about it quite a lot and about the hold and power it held over me. At times happy, sad and overall an experience that I would certainly recommend. One of 2011's best films.
- Feb 16, 2012
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