Monsieur Lazhar (12A)

Directed by Philippe Falardeau
FACT Picturehouse
1st - 7th June 2012

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

What is most memorable about this life affirming film is the remarkable acting by the class of children being taught in a francophone school in Montreal by an asylum seeking Algerian restaurateur, Bachir Lazhar (Mohamed Fellag - a noted actor from that country).

Unbeknown to the school authorities he has no formal teaching experience, after being appointed to the post following the suicide of a depressed female teacher, who was very popular with the kids.

Lazhar has his own troubled background, having experienced in Algeria the slaying of his wife and family by terrorists, but nevertheless he fits seamlessly into his new role, winning over the affections of his class, particularly Alice (Sophie Nelisse), who becomes his favourite pupil.

The film touches on a number of pertinent themes. For example, the way children deal and cope with a death of someone they feel affection for; the education system and its often rigid interpretation of the way it assesses the abilities and skills of children; and the manner in which adults too often impose an institutionalised pattern to children's lives, or overprotect them from imaginary dangers.

At the end of this richly rewarding film the final scene with Lazhar and Alice may bring a tear to your eye - I don't often say that about a movie!

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