“Monsieur Lazhar” (2011): ***
This is a seriously touching film: there is plenty of understated acting talent on show; the characters are nuanced; the pacing’s right; there is a proper suspense about the events we see. But….
I wonder if we quite believe the underlying premises of the film. Would a headmistress of a Montreal primary school put her career on the line by not exploring the CV of a new, obviously-immigrant, teacher-applicant? Could an untutored impostor pick up primary school teaching so quickly and well? Is anyone as nice as he is portrayed as being? Are any children quite as articulate as those we see?
I loved theideas of the film: that a traditional teacher, with his own real life grief, would more ably empathise with and handle the difficulties of children who lose a teacher, than do his younger, more obviously modernised colleagues. He talks robustly to the pupils about the pointlessness of death and of their thinking about it too much, and he throws caution to the winds and physically comforts one child who is beyond speech. He understands the merits of reticence and touches.