I fear no words can do this extraordinary film adequate justice. A Foreign Language Film nominee for this year’s Academy Awards, it simultaneously filled (to the brim) and broke my heart. Quiet and gently-paced, director and screenwriter Phillippe Falardeau’s film is an exquisite depiction of the universality of loss and grief. None of us, no matter our age or circumstances, are immune to tragedy touching our lives. Yet in that sobering reminder, there is also a message of hope, for through that shared experience is great potential for healing.
Monsieur Lazhar has fled his native Algiers (for reasons to which we become privy) for Montreal, Canada, where he is seeking asylum. He convinces the principal of a grade school to hire him as the replacement for a well-loved teacher who has committed suicide in her classroom (the reveal of which is tastefully handled, so please don’t let that bit of information dissuade you from seeing this lovely and powerful film).
It is deeply moving to witness the relationships that develop between this kind, gentle, patient man and his classroom of students, as well as the ways in which they are ultimately able to help one another to cope and come to terms with the emotions they are each experiencing. There is something so pure and honest about what unfolds between this teacher and his pupils ~ they all possess both innocence and innate wisdom in relation to their grief, regardless of age or experience. And thus the lines between teacher and student are touchingly blurred. Continue reading