Director: Philippe Falardeau
Talent: Mohamed Fellag, Alice L’Écuyer, Émilien Néron, Danielle Proulx
Release Date: 4 May 2012
Monsieur Lazhar begins on a snowy morning in Montreal. A student finds his teacher hanging from a ceiling pipe in her classroom. Upon hearing of this harrowing story, Bachir Lazhar, an Algerian immigrant, submits an application to become the teacher’s replacement. No one else seems interested in the position, so he soon becomes teacher and guidance-counsellor-of-sorts to his new class.
Lazhar’s approach to education is seemingly old-school compared to his colleagues, but as he settles into school life, it becomes clear that his way of relating to the children is more liberal than other teachers. He opens a space for his students to communicate the anguish caused by their former teacher’s suicide, and finds a place where he can work through internal conflicts of his own. The film explores the complexities of grief with a profound subtlety that spurs one to personal existential consideration and, in the process, inspires genuine empathy with its characters. Director Philippe Falardeau adapted the script from a one-man play by Évelyne de la Cheneliére; no mean feat, but handled by Falardeau with a masterly turn of craftsmanship. Monsieur Lazhar is a joy to watch.