Monsieur Lazhar

Synopsis

“A classroom is a place of friendship, of work, of courtesy, a place of life,” says the new teacher of the title to his sixth-grade students in a Montreal public school. That profoundly touching statement evinces the deep respect Monsieur Lazhar (the phenomenal Mohamed Fellag) has for his charges, who are still reeling from a beloved teacher’s very public suicide. Writer-director Philippe Falardeau’s unforgettable movie explores the intricate process by which M. Lazhar earns the respect and trust of his pupils, some of them the children of immigrants or, like this devoted instructor, recent arrivals to Quebec. As the reasons for M. Lazhar’s immigration to Canada from Algeria are made clear, so, too is his rather unconventional method for applying for the teaching position. Yet this educator isn’t the film’s only multifaceted character: the preteen students are also fascinatingly complex, struggling with roiling emotions and troubles at home. Monsieur Lazhar is that rarest of movies about education: one that avoids clichés and sentimentality in favor of honesty and clear-eyed compassion.

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