MONSIEUR LAZHAR (M) (94min) FOUR STARS
Directed by Philippe Falardeau. Starring Mohammed Fellag, Sophie Nelisse.
In French-speaking Montreal, after the sudden death of a hugely popular teacher, an untested Algerian immigrant is rushed into a primary school teaching job for which he is really not qualified. Faced with a class which is profoundly upset and disordered by what has happened - and at least one pupil who blames himself for the death - he slowly wins the students' trust with his own great honesty, integrity, and humility. It sounds like the basis of a truly nice film, and it is.
Monsieur Lazhar is a gentle, lyrical, and quite beautifully constructed fable of loss, and belonging. That Lazhar, the accidental teacher, brings with him his own grieving is not unexpected. But what Monsieur Lazhar does with that grief is wonderful.
This is an unsentimental film, with not a second that doesn't ring true. It manages to be moving without being manipulative, and that's a trick that demands writing and story telling of the very highest order. Recommended.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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