Monsieur Lazhar

Teach Them, Heal Them

         
 

13 April 2012| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

It feels a little like homework at first, but after awhile there is some original thematic creativity and poignancy. Monsieur Lazhar opens with a shockingly sad sequence of a small boy returning to the hallways after lunch and becoming the first one to eye his homeroom teacher’s suicide. From there, the movie’s exploration of grieving and recuperation takes place mostly inside the middle school. A mysterious man from Algeria, the titular Lazhar (Fellag), walks onto the school’s premises uninvited and insinuates himself into the job as substitute teacher. The movie is teasing and protracted when it comes to sharing Lazhar’s dark secret. On a night of self-reflection and compassion studies, this makes a good film to experience and think about.

Lazhar is dear to his abandoned wife who never got out of her own country following political persecution. Scattered throughout the film are scenes at a hearing where Lazhar seems to explain his past and to plead for rightful citizenship. He got out of his country originally as a refugee. These scenes are to benefit the viewer, but seemingly nobody at the school whom take an indifferent approach to him because he’s an immigrant.

An obscure change in the children’s behavior is taking place, but the principle can’t seem to get a handle on it. Nobody wants Lazhar’s wisdom and expertise. He is lectured repeatedly to only teach, not raise, the children. He is not to ever touch them, e.g., the 21st century protocol. Some of the teachers titter that they’ve been around for so many decades that they remember when you could slap or spank the kids. Lazhar’s heart isn’t darkened, for the only reason he’d touch them is to hug. Of course, he’s risking a lot if there’s a parent complaint.

Most of the colleagues care for these children but are so regimented by “procedure” that they can’t recognize flaws in their system. They want to expel a child for acting out a couple of times in aggression. Lazhar is the only one to have the insight into the friction of two particular students – one of them believes he bears responsibility for his teacher’s death. Lazhar, quietly and humbly, bridges the healing together between two young and confused students who need specific guidance. Fellag’s performance is one of virtuous grace.

Nominated for the 2012 Best Foreign Film Oscar, with the winner being “A Separation” (Iran).

94 Minutes. Rated PG-13. French Canadian in English subtitles.

FOREIGN FILM / FOOD FOR THOUGHT MOVIE / FALL SCHOLASTICS

Film Cousins: “Small Change” (1976, France); “Ciao Professore!” (1992, Italy); “Half Nelson” (2006); “The Class” (2008, France).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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