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Monsieur Lazhar

Directed by Philippe Falardeau

Canada, 2011

Cornerhouse, 6 May 2012


A teacher commits suicide, hanging herself in a classroom.  Her pupils come across her and raise the alarm.

This is all by way of preamble, the film proper is about the relationship between these children and their new teacher, an Algerian asylum seeker who has himself experienced violence.  His wife and two children were deliberately killed by sinister forces back in his homeland.

The late Donald Westlake said once that every good story had two essential ingredients: emotion and peril.  What you have here is a classic case in point.  Both teacher and children are fragile, emotionally wounded, in a precarious place.  And they help to heal each other.

It’s a beautiful film, not least because the direction and performances are so measured and nuanced.  You get just enough to make the emotion plain; and that’s all that is needed.  Mohamed Fellag as the teacher and the two principal child actors are especially splendid.

Expect to receive a series of hearty, heartrending haymakers sometime before the end and just after.