Monsieur Lazhar (2011) Poster

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A film that explores loss, exile, and the truths we tell our children.
Howard Schumann29 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Our society has often been called "death-denying," one in which grief is suppressed and the inevitability of death ignored. Author John Fowles said, "Death's rather like a certain kind of lecturer. You don't really hear what is being said until you're in the first row." The children at a primary school in Montreal are definitely in the first row in Philippe Falardeau's Monsieur Lazhar, the story of a sixth grade class in Canada attempting to deal with the emotional trauma resulting from the sudden and shocking loss of their teacher.

Nominated for Best Foreign Language film at the 2012 Oscars, Monsieur Lazhar is an adaptation of Évelyne de la Chenelière's stage play, and is produced by Luc Déry and Kim McCraw, the same team that gave us the Oscar-nominated Incendies. According to the jury at the Toronto Film Festival, it is "a film that explores loss, exile, and the truths we tell our children."

Opening in a schoolyard in the middle of a snowy winter, Grade 6 pupils, Simon (Émilien Néron), and his friend, Alice (Sophie Nélisse), have run off to deliver milk cartons only to discover their teacher Martine Lachance has committed suicide, a discovery that leaves both children with profound emotional scars that will take a long time to heal. Because Simon had been a problem for his teacher, he blames himself for her death and takes out his guilt feelings by being overly aggressive towards other children. Unfortunately, the school can only think in terms of "professional" counseling, and a psychologist is hired to assist the distressed pupils, but she is ineffective in reaching them.

The classroom is redecorated and painted, yet the students are not moved to another room and the unseen presence of Martine looms large. Exhausted by the ordeal, the school principal, Madame Vaillancourt (Danielle Proulx), out of desperation, hires Bachir Lazhar (Mohamed Fellag), an Algerian refugee without papers or references, believing his story that he is a landed immigrant and has taught school for nineteen years, though in fact he has been the manager of a restaurant. Though getting off to a shaky start in class, dictating Balzac to the bewildered children, Bachir soon begins to handle the children's emotions with greater awareness and sensitivity.

Operating under the severe restrictions of today's over-protective culture, he is prohibited from hugging a crying child or even touching them for that matter, a prohibition that often works to the detriment of the child as well as to what the school is trying to accomplish. Though Bachir actually had not told the truth about his teaching qualifications in order to get the job, his ability to relate to the student's trauma because of his own experience allows him to overcome his lack of training and meet the students on an equal playing field. Winner of the award for Best Canadian feature film at the Toronto Film Festival, Monsieur Lazhar is a low-key, low-budget, and often humorous film that observes rather than preaches, and, though the script offers many opportunities, avoids clichés and cloying sentimentality.

Marked by outstanding performances by Fellag, Proulx, and especially the children who are natural and unaffected, the characters are allowed to explore their own feelings without contrivance or manipulation. When the emotional moments come, they are all the more powerful because they arise naturally and not out of pre-designed plot points designed to provoke tears. Though we might wish for an ending akin to Mr. Holland's Opus, the honesty of the film precludes it. While children's hurt in this kind of situation may never be completely forgotten, with compassion, they may be able to develop a new awareness of the preciousness of life and the beauty of giving and receiving love. Monsieur Lazhar has pointed the way.
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Heart-Warming and Heart-Wrenching
FilmPulse8 May 2012
Monsieur Lazhar is another in a long line of inspirational teacher films set to show viewers that teachers are an unending source of inspiration and worldly advice. I have grown tired of this plot line and subsequent variations, but Monsieur Lazhar is a shining example of the inspirational teacher film and the poignancy of said films if executed correctly, with honesty and maturity.

Philippe Falardeau's (It's Not Me, I Swear and Congorama) film adaption of Evelyne de la Chenelière's play (she also plays Alice's mother), Monsieur Lazhar was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category as the official Canadian submission. The film tells the story of Bachir Lazhar (Mohamed Fellag), an Algerian immigrant hired at Montreal public grade school after the original teacher was found hanging from the ceiling of her classroom. The teacher, Martine Lachance, was found by one of her students, Simon (Émilien Néron) while he was delivering milk to the classroom as he always does every Thursday. The film continues to show the effects of death and the ways that the children try to deal with the loss, but also their grief, which at times seem to be stifled by the school.

Monsieur Lazhar, at the same time, is dealing with a loss of his own; having come to Canada seeking asylum and waiting for his wife and children to join him, only to have his family killed the night before they were supposed to leave Algeria. The film cuts between Bachir in the classroom (having the children do a dictation of Balzac, rearranging their desks, etc.) and Bachir outside of the classroom (picking up his wife's belongings, preparing for a hearing, etc.). No one knows of his painful past, nor of his refugee status; the school is under the impression that he is a permanent resident of Canada.

Bachir notices, because of his current dealing with grief, that the children are trying to communicate or express their feelings about the death of their teacher. The school has brought on a psychologist to help the children come to grips with their loss. Bachir realizes that it is merely a stop-gap, but is told "not to make waves". He continues to witness things that lead him to believe that the children want to talk about their teacher, Martine and also of the trouble they are having trying to understand something that may well be beyond their comprehension.

Monsieur Lazhar is a heart-warming, but at the same time, heart-wrenching story of how people (whether it be children or adults) trying to come to terms with the loss of a family member (albeit for the children it was a teacher, but school, at that young age, can be something like a second home). Bachir, himself, uses a very personal and poignant short story, that he wrote himself and reads to his class, in an effort to say goodbye - something that Martine Lachance never did. The film features some great performances from Mohamed Fellag as Monsieur Lazhar, Émilien Néron as Simon - a guilt-ridden child that feels responsible for his teacher's suicide - and Sophie Nélisse as Alice, the surprisingly mature young girl that has the courage to speak about the effects of Martine's decisions.

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A little masterpiece
Sugith Varughese15 April 2012
This film won Canada's Genie for best film and deserved it. The story is simple and profound, contemporary and timeless at the same time. After the suicide of a grade school class teacher, a new teacher appears ready to take over the class. An Algerian immigrant, Monsieur Lazhar brings such a deep humanity to his job, that the traumatized kids are able to come to terms in some ways with what has happened. What they don't realize is how much their new teacher knows of their pain first hand.

Fellag's performance as the title character is note perfect and gigantic. The children are astonishing and the final scene, the final moment will crush even the most stoic viewer's resolve not to weep.
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A perfect movie about loss and hope
richard-19676 April 2012
What happens when a class of 6th graders loses their beloved teacher to suicide? What happens when an Algerian immigrant applies to be their new teacher in a culture he is just beginning to understand? What is behind the teacher's stillness, his smile and his sad eyes? This film is a beautiful rendering of a stage play about love and loss, but also about hope. In this wonderfully-told story, the hope isn't trite, contrived or artificial. It's something you almost have to feel. It comes from the growing relationship between this strange teacher in a strange land, and his student children, so in need of his help.

The movie's cast is rich with great acting, by the kids of course, but here, if anything, they're outshone by Algerian actor Mohamed Fellag, whose face tells 1000 stories about where he has been and, perhaps, where he hopes to go.

The only things not perfect are the characters, for this writer and director have been too careful to give them - even the "best" of the children - no flaws. They are all more good than bad, but also complex in their own way, suffering the loss of one teacher and the growing pains of learning to learn from another.

This film gets my vote for Best Foreign Language Film, even over the excellent A Separation. Don't miss it!
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Monsieur Lazhar
cultfilmfan16 February 2012
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.
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beautiful film
WilliamCKH30 April 2012
Here again is an amazing French language film about children....This film brings up so many issues about the state of education in our modern society... the role of the teacher, the administrators, the parents, in the development of our kids... and our society. And the children in this film are all wonderful... smart, caring, funny, and mischievous. I wonder, hypothetically, what children become without someone like MONSIEUR LAZHAR in their lives. I think more and more children have fewer adult role models to look up to. Everyone is so busy, cornered in their own boxes, afraid to step out of bounds, with no time to give...It makes for a secluded...secular world...
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The Power of One
soncoman14 April 2012
Canada's entry for 2012's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, "Monsieur Lazhar" is a quiet, sweet and deceptively simple film that tells the story of Bachir Lazhar, an Algerian refugee who offers his services as a substitute teacher for an elementary school class that has lost its teacher. The circumstances of the teacher's death, the students' and staff's reaction to it, and Lazhar's own back-story combine to create a compelling film that has a lot to say about the barriers we place between ourselves and our children today.

Mohammd Fellag, an Algerian comedian, writer and humorist, portrays Monsieur Lazhar, and is surrounded by an exceptional cast of juvenile actors, led by Sophie Nelisse and Emilien Neron. The performances in this film are uniformly superb which, given the subject matter, is quite an accomplishment (particularly for the young actors portraying the classmates.)

Lazhar's attempts to deal with his students' grief, their cultural and educational differences, the rigid requirements of an educational system, and his own difficulties and loss all culminate in a final scene of incredible power and emotion - the power of one person to connect with another, the power of one act to convey incredible meaning.

"Monsieur Lazhar" is worthy of the honors it has received and worth a trip to the theatre.
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Good news, if not purpose, in suffering
rachel-lyn-paprocki13 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
A story about grief beautifully shot in cloudy soft tones with a wide sense of light and space, almost heavenly, the Quebecois film "Monsieur Lazhar" manages deep mourning and acceptance, somehow hopeful in its expression of the quiet reality of what is, despite how much we wish it were otherwise. A shell-shocked Quebec elementary school class suffering the wake of their teacher's abrupt suicide is treated to the foreign (Algerian) auspices of Monsieur Bachir Lazhar, revealed to the audience but not the other characters to be a political refugee dealing with a devastating loss of his own. His name means "Lucky" and "Tell the good news," which his plays off to his class as a simple greeting, but the good news of Bashir's presence in the classroom has much more to offer than just luck.

Lazhar's personal acquaintance with grief is a sort of gospel that allows him a much-needed perspective towards the care of his students, one of whom, Simon, blames himself for the suicide and another, Alice, who seems intractably aware of the finality of death and the permanence of its impact. Heart-wrenchingly convincing performances by Emilien Neron and Sophie Nelisse, respectively, capture the incredibly perceptive incredulity that accompanies childhood trauma. That still- reeling sense of grief is equally apparent in Mohamed Fellag's performance as Lazhar; the emotion of those big round eyes and recently- crumpled shoulders speaks volumes about the import of suffering, shadowed even in bright winter light.

"Monsieur Lazhar" deals with questions of justice and purpose in suffering, concluding in the untempered voices of the children that in some loss there is neither purpose nor justice, but the residue of the experience lingers in bittersweetness that might be named "hope." Ultimately Lazhar makes it okay that some things end before their time, expressing in a classroom fable both his goodbye to the children and his commission for their futures—one of hope and acceptance, which is grace from the inevitable pain of life as human.
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Beautiful Humanist Film
andyadamson126 July 2012
Saw this last night as part of a Canadian Film Festival. It's a real gem that negotiates it's way around trauma and intimacy with tact while never preaching. It's a true humanist film in that it attempts to deal with the real issues of being a human being in a realistic and sympathetic way. I'm a fan of Ken Loach, but at times he can make his films too didactic. This movie never does that. The performances are universally excellent and it's open ended structure allows you to go away with multiple endings to think through. I wanted to know so much more about Mr Lazhar after the story ends. Similar to A Separation in many ways and also its equal.
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An immigrant teacher helps a class address tragedy
clarissaW57 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Monsieur Lazhar Written and directed by Philippe Falardeau (2011) 94 minutes Canada's official submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 84th Academy Awards 2012. French with English subtitles.

This paradoxical film is beautifully acted and directed. The script by Philippe Falardeau is riveting, precise and natural. It portrays the reactions of the children to the suicide of a favorite teacher and slowly uncovers the concealed past of other figures. Monsieur Bachir Lazhar, an immigrant from Algeria, played by Mohamed Fellaq, having read of the suicide in the papers, applies for the newly vacant teaching position with an air of desperation and an exaggerated resume. Set in a public elementary school in Montreal, the students are from diverse backgrounds. An educated man, Lazhar shows he has no idea how to teach young children when he begins by reading Balzac and asking the children to write out dictation. He enforces discipline in the class—even slapping a child—and re-arranges the desks in straight lines. Quickly he is told his expectations are too high, but it all signals change to the students who sense his good will and welcome the new beginning.

The children are wonderful. Simon, the boy who found the teacher, played by Emilien Neron, conveys his trauma almost without words. You could drown in the eyes of Alice, Simon's schoolmate, played by Sophie Nelisse. Falardeau's direction makes it difficult to remember this is a film, not a real group of children in a real school. I was reminded of the children in two French films: Francois Trauffaut's 400 Blows and Louis Malle's Au Revoir Les Enfants.

It quickly becomes clear that there is a clash between the teacher and the school principal. Lazhar and the principal, Mme. Vaillancourt, played by Danielle Prouix, are simultaneously co-conspirators and antagonists. She feels some of the same conflicts but also expresses sad weariness. She shrugs when he asks if the class could be moved to another room and she responds by saying "That is why they put on fresh paint." The school prefers shielding the children from talking about the suicide and leaving the distress of the children to be addressed by the experts. Lazhar can barely keep himself from responding to the inevitable questions of the students and from trying to comfort them. Both his slap and his pats on the backs of students violate another rule: zero touching of a student by a teacher. A father implores Lazhar "not to raise his child, but to teach her." The reasons for the teacher's immigration and the vulnerability of his entry into Canadian life become clear as the film progresses. There are glimpses of the particular loneliness and fragility of an immigrant such as a meticulous daily routine. We see his simple apartment; his awkward social life; and we watch unnoticed as he dances to the music of his past.

Clearly, Falardeau is exceptionally talented and has the ability to raise social issues through a riveting story. I intend to find his earlier films and look forward to seeing his future work.

Please visit my page at WASHINGTON FILM INSTITUTE > Lazhar/ and leave any comments > you have about this or any review.
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A Nutshell Review: Monsieur Lazhar
DICK STEEL20 November 2012
It was just in today's newspaper where it was reported that teachers here would be given a code of conduct which they have to adhere to. I can only guess what these guidelines are and perhaps how strait-jacketed they will be in reducing the teacher to being a pure administrator and educator, without vested personal emotions to his or her class, something that only a robot or cyborg can deliver, lessons without emotion. And it's uncanny that this was also one of the themes being featured in this Canadian-French movie, a powerful tale revolving around a makeshift teacher and his students, moving from a period of confusion, blame and tragedy, toward reconciliation and healing for both parties.

I'm pretty sure all of us have a favourite teacher, or teachers, throughout our education in schools and institutions, and I bet it is likely that they all happen to be very personable and approachable, not to mention dedicated and committed to seeing that their students do well. They have their own style, and despite some little oddities, are never lacking in effort and desire to teach, and impart knowledge. They may not adhere to the school's culture, and at times may even do things to the contrary of established rules, but save for the few bad hats with ulterior motives, there's no short of innovation in their lessons, or in this instance, somewhat trying to instill some old school techniques into a class that is comfortable with new methods of learning.

Beginning in very grim terms, this Canadian nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards has an elementary school student in Montreal chance upon his teacher's body, being hung from a pipe in their classroom in an apparent suicide. Why she had to do this, which is quite deliberate and knowing jolly well who would find her, is left to be debated, as the screenplay moves to deal with the aftermath of this tragedy, where a psychologist got hired for regular counselling sessions with that teacher's class, and any other school person who needed someone to talk to. For the principal, priority remains in getting a replacement teacher, and he comes in the form of the titular Lazhar (Mohamed Fellaq), who walked in to offer his services, having an impressive educator's record.

But there's more to Monsieur Lazhar as we would soon find out, as one of the rare male figures in a school led predominantly by female educators. Tragedy seems to connect teacher and class together, and through their semester together, learn how to cope with their demons in their own ways. The relationship building between teacher and student is just about what's best about this moving drama, in addition to having to tackle some politics of the day, especially when Lazhar administers some vigilante styled discipline of his own, before being lectured to stick to the code of conduct and guidelines. Which mirrors how power has shifted these days from teachers, once feared in the classroom, to the students and protective parents who will have no qualms at taking on the teacher, principal and anyone else in the educational hierarchy.

Mohamed Fellaq puts in a superb performance as the titular character, and we share in his earnest efforts at doing his best despite not being what he truly is., and grieve with him during his most personal of times during the movie. writer-director Philippe Falardeau (who also did It's Not Me, I Swear!) adopts a somewhat documentary feel when dealing with scenes involving the classroom, sort of reminiscent of the Cannes Film Festival 2008 Palme d'Or winner The Class, with a myriad of student characters performed by very charismatic young actors and actresses boasting naturalness in their delivery, that it makes it seem like a real class rather than a rehearsed one. It is this interaction, as well as painful revelation, that makes Monsieur Lazhar a little heart-wrenching to sit through.
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Worthy entry for Oscar 2012 (Foreign)
Kong Ho Meng17 November 2012
This film has what it takes to be one of the 5 entries in Oscar 2012 foreign film category. Unlike another french film 'un class', Monsieur Lazhar deals with the issue of moving on from a tragic event, to continue carrying out the role of teaching schoolchildren.

I am only half correct to say that this movie deals with the healing process, because while it seems to be that way, observers will realize that it is not quite possible to heal the wounds of all parties, due to bureaucracy, conflicts and cultural differences. And it is not possible to pretend that nothing has happened either. What I find fascinating about this film is that it chose not to be too ambitious in finding a good conclusion, but introduces all the elements of restraint and helplessness by the characters.

However, the movie offered surprises especially in the development of certain characters. Even though I disagreed with some of the support methods carried out (the movie sometimes forget these kids were below 12 years old) and I would have hoped to see more positive aftermath from the movie, the ending was very satisfying, when Lazhar, given the compromising situation, decides to give his classroom something that their previous teacher failed to do.
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The Human Condition: at the grade school level
don250719 May 2012
This absorbing film, set in Montreal, ties together two tragedies and by such a linkage shows our capacity for human understanding and emotional empathy. While that may sound excessively depressing to some readers, I found a semblance of hope in this film as the characters, both young and old, try to move on with their lives and cope as best they can, and while the trauma may be a permanent part of their psyches, their seeming resilience conveys a kind of worldly maturity and acceptance.

The film opens with two school children discovering a favorite, but troubled, teacher who has hung herself in her classroom while her students are at recess. Psychologists are brought in to help the students cope with the emotional intensity of such a tragedy, and then later a Mr. Bachir Lazhar, an Algerian immigrant, presents himself to the principal as a suitable replacement for the suicide victim's class telling her how he's followed the school's trauma in the newspapers and he's available to help. Does he need the work (we find out his legal status is uncertain and he's in danger of being deported) or is some unconscious empathetic force driving him toward working with these students since he seems to understand their pain? The school authorities prefer to move on from the tragic event while Mr. Lazhar can sense after a number of months that some of his students are dwelling on their former teacher's act and her reasons for doing so; he encourages them to talk in class about their feelings and for this he is rebuked. We eventually discover the horrific tragedy surrounding his own family and why he's fled to Canada, and from this we can understand and appreciate his empathy for his students and his understanding of their emotional plight ("why did she do it in her own classroom during school?"). The film has many touching moments as this strange Algerian immigrant explains the "unexplainable" to his students and they in turn seem to provide him with an emotional outlet, and a purpose, to counter his own suffering.

Some reviewers have questioned the film's seeming lack of total emotional resolution, but life can be open-ended. Will these children completely heal (as much as they can) and will Mr. Lazhar's half-year encounter with these kindred souls give him the emotional basis for sustaining a meaningful life in a foreign environment? We don't really know, but some of the signs that the film depicts seem to be favorable. A very worthy film from Canada!
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Beautifully soft, gentle and knowing.
Tim Johnson8 October 2012
Diane and I saw this wonderful movie today in Fremantle and were enveloped by its soft knowing outlook on the human condition. Superficially it is simply the story of a migrant new to Canada who is hired as a long-term relief teacher for an upper level primary school but as we all know, the devil is in the de3tails and these details are what constitute a fascinating look at the character's universal humanity.

As the students become used to Monsieur Lazhar we learn of his background as well as a few insights into this class of young humanity with all of its own personal maturation. Beyond that there are interactions with other adults at the school who are either played upon themselves or are playing upon the various characters in the film. Some of this interplay is pretty emotional as any person that has ever had any connection with adolescents will immediately understand.

This is a great film as has been judged by others more professional than I and it deserves all of that recognition!
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Understated yet powerful
paperbackboy27 December 2013
This tightly written gem manages to pack a powerful emotional punch, while avoiding clichés and "cheap shots" - no easy task in a film that examines the emotions of 11/12-year-old schoolchildren and their teachers.

The acting is for the most part charmingly low-key, and the action minimal, leaving the viewer wanting more, right up to the calmly controlled yet emotional ending (no spoilers here!).

The movie also raises some interesting (and highly topical) issues about physical contact with children in the classroom or at summer camp (hugging, patting on the back, applying sunscreen, wiping a bloody nose, etc.). While one minor character expresses the popular viewpoint, the film contains several key scenes designed to let viewers make up their own minds.

Highly recommended - I rarely give anything 8 out of 10!
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Canadian take on immigration and schools..sensitive stuff
secondtake27 November 2013
Monsieur Lazhar (2011)

A very straightforward, somewhat predictable film that is so nicely made, and has such an oddly charming main character, you'll likely go along happily all the way. I don't think it's some kind of gem or masterpiece, as much as I was thrilled at the ending, which means it built me up beautifully up to that point.

We might see two common genres mixed here. One is the school drama, with the inevitable starring teacher and a student or two who causes trouble, either literally or of the illicit love type. Then there is the immigrant story, especially an illegal, and the necessary subterfuges and adaptations all around. So the main character, Bachir, is a newly arrived Algerian immigrant who lands, by charm and perseverance, a job as a teacher in the a Montreal school. He is replacing a woman who committed suicide by hanging herself in her classroom (with the students at recess).

All this is told quickly, with high drama of course (suicide is none but). And there is a tragic desperation injected right away. Even the students carry this on, traumatized and yet still children, fussing and jerking their way forward in their own odd (and lovable) ways.

So the teacher adjusts, slowly, getting to the know the students and their psychological trappings. He also is coming to terms with his own situation (a couple of dull immigration meetings are shown, and though maybe necessary, maybe not). Other teachers watch and sometimes help, or try to get to know him. He meanwhile wins over the reclucant class of kids.

I'm actually telling a bit of the story and leaving out what matters most—the compelling leading man, who is a show of his own, restrained and awkward and sympathetic. But I'm also letting on that these events are one we've seen many times before. There are some small twists, and there is a high level of steady (and sincere) competence at work, but we do have a familiar tale at the bottom.

Well done? Yes. Commanding? Mostly, yes. Moving and new? Sometimes. It's worth seeing if you like low key, serious, contemporary films.
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Monsieur Lazhar suffers from a separation
gizmomogwai6 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Monsieur Lazhar follows a growing trend in Quebecois films getting more recognition at the Oscars, either nominated or making a shortlist, with Denys Arcand scoring a win. Monsieur Lazhar's nomination followed Incendies' the previous year, but I didn't think Monsieur Lazhar was as powerful as Incendies, and despite being Canadian, agree with the Academy's decision to hand the 2011 Foreign Language Oscar to Iran's A Separation instead.

The premise of the movie sounds vaguely familiar- a new teacher steps into a school with students from another world, and inspires them. In this case, Lazhar is an Algerian refugee who teaches at a Quebecois school after a teacher hangs herself there, and must help the students cope. The students soon do well in spite of Lazhar's high expectations.

The movie is slightly underdeveloped in explaining how Lazhar achieves his breakthrough in teaching the students, a little more puzzling considering he's not even a real teacher- his late wife in Algeria was. On that subject, I wasn't all that sympathetic to him for lying about those credentials, nor for slapping a student's head or acting insensitive about the deceased teacher from time to time (although we know very little about her, it's far likelier she was in a poor state of mental health rather than actively trying to harm the students).

That said, Monsieur Lazhar is by no stretch of the imagination a bad movie, at times being spot on in its emotion. It just turns out that A Separation and Incendies brought out more powerful emotions.
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A film about surviving
s-barash725 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Death / suicide, grief, loss, survival are the main topics in this film. Bashir Lazhar is a man who has lost everything and is seeking the status of political refugee in Canada. He is on his own trying to come to terms with the death of his family and to adapt to another culture. At the same time he is taking up the job of teaching a class of children who are still in shock after their teacher hung herself in the classroom. In school no one knows about his past and it sometimes feels superhuman how he manages to give the children stability and support when he himself has such a heavy burden to carry. It is enchanting to see how he starts bonding with the children and how they open up to him. These moments are filled with subtle humor and lightness. (A wonderfully light scene is Monsieur Lazhar dancing.) And this is one of the strengths of this film. It succeeds in combining humor and sadness. I would love to see this film again!
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Quebec rocks!
jjedif8 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
"Monsieur Lazhar" is another fine film "québécois".

Vive la différence!

Like "Incendies", the film links Quebec to the rest of the world in an unexpected way.

The primary and secondary story lines that intersect in Bachir's life are well thought out.

Yet the superb acting of the children is what really takes this film to another level.

The film also shows Quebec's cinematic Frenchness.

Throughout the film we are left hanging on several counts, something that most Americans don't like (along with the film's lack of car chase scenes and explosions).

Nor will most Americans care about an Algerian refugee escaping terrorism in his home country.

Or that the film doesn't turn out in a predictable sappy way.

In fact at the end of the film, neither Bachir's or the children's futures are at all certain.

In a word, this is NOT a film that will be opening in multiplexes around the USA!

But for those who like a good plot and good acting, "Monsieur Lazhar" is definitely worth the small investment of time and money.
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Monsieur Lazhar:Philippe Falardeau has made a popular film which fails to convince.
FilmCriticLalitRao28 April 2013
Canadian director Philippe Falardeau's film "Monsieur Lazhar" has not only proved to be a huge box office success but also managed to elicit favorable reviews from film critics.All this positive response has helped to create an advantageous environment for his film.In the wake of such a fabulous success,it is somewhat difficult for an independent observer to express a dissenting opinion.However,popularity of a work of art is not the only real indicator of its true worth.It is in this sense that film critic Lalit Rao viewed this film during 5th Bangalore International Film Festival 2012. As a popular film with a compassionate message,Monsieur Lazhar suffers from various glaring inaccuracies which recur throughout the film.Most of them are related to the appointment and firing from the job of the film's protagonist.Hence,it can be said that the entire film can fall flat on its face if this error is noticed by many viewers.The portrayal of a school teacher and his work environment is also highly predictable and leaves a lot to be desired. However,as a last remark,it can be said that it is through a tremendous acting performance by Algerian actor Fellag that "Monsieur Lazhar" is able to overcome its weaknesses.
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The movie is as charming and intriguing as its main protagonist
akash_sebastian12 September 2012
'Monsieur Lazhar' tells a beautiful and gentle story of a sixth-grade class whose students are trying to cope with the suicide of their previous teacher, Martine. And their new teacher, Bashir Lazhar, is trying to cope with the death of his family. The class and Lazhar, both prove to be mutually beneficial to each other in coping with their losses.

It's discussions on loss (death), violence and student-teacher relationships are intriguing.

Mohamed Fellag gives an amazing performance as the new teacher, Monsieur Lazhar and holds the movie together. All the kids are charming in the movie, especially the kid Emilien Neron, playing the role of Simon, who gives a refreshing and appealing performance.

Few scenes, like the one in which Lazhar lets himself loose to the music played downstairs and starts dancing, the one where the class picture is being taken with everyone saying aloud the word 'Bashir' instead of 'Cheese', the one in which Simon finally lets out his emotions in class and the climax scene, stay in your mind long after the movie is over.
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Philippe Falardeau and Superb Cast Score With "Monsieur Lazhar"
georgep5329 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Canada's 2011 entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar "Monsieur Lazhar" is a sensitive and beautifully acted character study of the effects of suicide on a class of French-Canadian school children and their teacher. Sophie Nelisse and Emilien Neron give remarkable performances as the 2 children most traumatized after witnessing their teacher hanging lifelessly in a classroom. Mohamed Fellag is Bashir Lazhar an Algerian immigrant seeking asylum from persecution back home. When he's hired to replace the deceased teacher he must cope with doting parents, an overbearing school bureaucracy and the pervasive atmosphere of mistrust and paranoia symptomatic of contemporary society. Director Philippe Falardeau who wrote the screenplay deserves much praise for his work here. He's tackling some delicate subjects and does so with understanding, compassion and restraint. "Monsieur Lazhar" is a definite crowd-pleaser. You won't soon forget Fellag's memorable performance as the unassuming teacher who unbeknownst to colleagues and students is straining under the weight of personal tragedy in addition to dealing with unsympathetic immigration officials. Among other things this is a wonderful film about defiance whether it be against a repressive regime or the arbitrary way bureaucracies seek to dehumanize us.
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Thought Provoking and Convincing
Marcin Kukuczka16 January 2014
Why do people complicate their motives? What strength lies behind different people's destinies? What is coincidental and what is prefabricated in life? What spiritual link may exist among humans who have gone through different traumas? Can you undergo a radical change in a new environment and remain true to yourself? These sort of thought provoking questions will evoke when seeing MONSIEUR LAZHAR - a film that may truly occur an illuminating discovery amongst recent productions.

Directed by a newcomer Philippe Falardeau, it surprised me from the start. Seemingly, its school context can lead viewers to draw parallels, or even compare it with other films of the thematic concern. The Independent draws parallels with the Iranian production A Separation. Some find noticeable similarities with MONSIEUR MATTHIEU. The most striking movie quoted by many occurs to be DEAD POETS' SOCIETY. Indeed, certain plot aspects are common, like student/students-teacher relations, consultation with parents, the inner school system. Nevertheless, these are not the 'copies' where the movie's strengths really lie. These are not the themes returning again in a slightly different form and under a different title that prompt some movie critics label MONSIEUR LAZHAR "cinema at its most impactful" (Liam Maguren), "a reaffirmation of teacher's vocation" (Phillip French, The Observer). More to say, that would have never opened the way towards winning the City of Toronto Award and Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. What charm lies in MONSIEUR LAZHAR? I would condense it in three points: the portrayal of THE PROTAGONIST, the depiction of SCHOOLING and intensification of EMOTIONAL RESONANCE.

PROTAGONIST: Roger Ebert states memorably that the film "has no simple questions and simple answers. Its purpose is to present us with a situation, explore the people involved and show us a man who is dealing with his own deep hurts." In media res, we get to know the protagonist and his environment. Beautifully depicted in an all in-depth portrayal by the Algerian comedian, writer and actor Mohamed Said Fellag, the title character Monsieur Lazhar is someone reliable and easy to identify with. As a refugee in Canada (the action takes place at Montreal), he is a newcomer at work and in the country. Equally, he strives to achieve the status of a reliable teacher and a reliable citizen. We may suspect that he has certain past behind him, a rather difficult past and memories from his homeland, but, as fate places him among the pupils whose trauma becomes clear to us at once, we discover him more and more. This mental discovery of the protagonist prompted within viewers is something very authentic with a memorable stimulus hidden within flawless action and clever script. Soon, we may agree with the statement of Phillip French in The Observer that "Lazhar is a man of tact, probity and a rich sense of humor." Taking responsibility for the class, the children who lost their previous teacher in the most 'nightmarish' circumstances, his arrival at the school rightly makes the whole film more and more thought provoking and convincing. In his encounter with his pupils, we discover the surprising fact that they, actually, have more in common than anyone would suspect. But the thing is, the little trick is to find this link. Anthony Quinn nicely points out about "a sympathetic balance between a child's view of schooling and an adult's."

SCHOOLING: Again, let me quote Roger Ebert's strong but interesting line: " a teacher seems hardly allowed to be human." But in Monsieur Lazhar, this tact, probity and a rich sense of humor appear to be harmonious and excellently balanced. In the relations with parents and other teachers as well as his pupils, he is full of tact; his probity is clear in the way he treats his challenges (a few scenes show him at his desk correcting pupils' works) and a sense of humor is revealed at right places and at right time. Nevertheless, the critical view on schooling remains, the imposed rules, the usually inhumane requirements. Mind you the fact that the film actually ends with a hug, a hug of a teacher and a pupil, something forbidden at schools, yet something that rightly points out and stresses humanity needed in teacher-student relations. This humanity which is a key for healthy relations, austere methods of communicating thoughts. Here we could agree with a critic Critic Anne Hornaday of The Washington that the film "achieves its own sort of crystalline perfection – in simply telling the truth, and telling the truth simply."

EMOTIONAL RESONANCE: It seems to be a primordial conclusion after viewing the film that the story, though difficult and tense, does not imprison the characters within the world of traumas but is directed towards the redemptive aspect of humanity in itself. Practically, no words or statutes or any power of mind helps the characters recover from difficulties but emotions. Something very human, something bound to criticism by the skeptical world of conventions, yet something true to human nature. The emotional resonance of the story is throughout a hidden character of the film, a backdrop presence that makes itself influential and significant. Handled memorably by the cast, including the youngsters who, thanks to undeniably effective rapport with the director, supply us with authentic display of emotions. Perhaps, it is most striking with Alice (Sophie Nelisse) but when we see the film from the standpoint of the protagonist, all the characters contribute powerfully to this target.

All in all, an important film, a must see not only for teachers for whom it may work as inspirational achievement but for all viewers who like ambitious cinema.
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Subtle Drama
billcr1215 February 2013
A Canadian film, set in Quebec, deals with the sudden death by suicide of a popular teacher at a middle school, and the effect on the twelve year old students there. In need of a quick replacement, an Algerian immigrant is hired to take over the classroom. He connects with the children within a short time, and the drama is told from his and the kids perspective. This is a very subtle movie, with no sudden surprises, but just a quiet and thoughtful telling of the meaning of life and death, with outstanding performances from everyone involved. Mohamed Fellag is absolutely believable as the deeply caring Mr. Lazhar, a man who has sought refuge in Canada and wishes to have a profound impact on his classroom. He has escaped political persecution from Algeria and is forced to deal with bureaucracies, both at the school and from an immigration panel. Monsieur Lazhar well worth your time.
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Lovely story, outstanding performance of a group of kids!
Amir Rayat Nazari10 September 2012
A friend of mine invited me to watch "Monsieur Lazhar", and very accidentally I had the chance of be a spectator of this spectacular movie. It treats delicately eternal topics beyond time and geography such as the death, immigration and education. The story narration is married with a enough dose of the humor, a deep sadness sometimes and wisdom all along the film. The wisdom is simply a well story carried out without any prejudice, having believable personages and avoiding an end with a happy ending. Also I found that the group of the kids play brilliantly like the principal actor in the role of the teacher, especially the girl and the boy in the role of Alice and Simon could both have a successful career in the cinema industry. Indeed the realistic scenario beside their excellent performance shows us how much we ignore or underestimate the comprehension of the children of our world. The fact that the story happens in Montreal was also an occasion to take advantage of the richness of this multicultural society as well the charming quebecois accent. I appreciated its implicit message that the life is maybe often hard, but it's always beautiful. I hope that we'll hear more about this lovely film in future!
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