Monsieur Lazhar (2011) – Ace Mini-Review

Monsier Lazhar
Starring: Fellag, Sophie Nélisse, Émilien Néron
Written by: Philippe Falardeau, Evelyne de la Chenelière
Directed by: Philippe Falardeau
Canada, 2011

How good is this movie?

In some ways, this is a conventional and even corny cross-cultural bonding story, but it is elevated by the bravery of its subject and the strength of its performances. It’s nice to be reminded that children can actually act and to see them grappling with serious tragedy. I’m less sure about the film’s message. Bachir maintains that children should be allowed to talk about their loss but refuses to discuss his own, even with other adults. His reluctance to “infect” the classroom with his grief is admirable, but I also wonder that he doesn’t take his own advice and open up more. Still, it seems that doing his wife’s job and being close to children is Bachir’s form of therapy, and that his time at the school is as much about coping with his own grief as about helping the children cope with theirs.

How ace is this movie?

Bachir shows no romantic interest in any of the many women at the school, even one who actively flirts with him. This is probably because he is still mourning his wife, but it does mean that his platonic bond with his students is far more important to the story than any potential romances. The film also touches on issues related to displays of physical affection between adults and children. It questions the limits placed on such displays, but also acknowledges that different children have different boundaries and validates their personal choices.

3.5 Stars; 3 Aces

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