Monsieur Lazhar
By Tom Sharp With on February 06, 2012

A French-Canadian film with subtitles, Monsieur Lazhar was a slow paced character story of a “teacher” who comes into substitute for a class in a Montreal school that just lost their teacher when she hung herself in the classroom. Lazhar, who we later learn is a refugee with no previous teaching experience, is coping with his own grief of losing his wife and child in an act of terrorism in Algeria. The movie was fairly subtle and slow-paced. Though there was not a great deal of resolution or dramatic tension – this is more in the European style than the American one, perhaps - the teacher and the classroom end up being mutually healing for one another. The kids gave Monsieur Lazhar something to pour his heart and kindness into (even if he had little idea how to teach), and the teacher was able to help some of the kids who were are deeply troubled by the suicide they experienced. Lazhar creates this safe space intuitively in his classroom even though the administration simply wants him to forget about the incident and move on. It was a movie about dealing with grief by not just forgetting, but by expressing what is felt inside. I loved one scene in particular where Lazhar hears music playing downstairs at a school dance and puts his arms out quietly to dance a little, tentatively allowing himself to feel a tinge of happiness and release for the first time in a long time. I was also moved watching Lazhar struggle to receive the affections of a single female teacher who invites him over to dinner. There was no real “happy ending” or resolution to the difficulty, which at first made me not care for this movie as much, but on further reflection I realize that any other happy ending would be cliché and forced. Monsieur is a film that stays with you and needs to be digested a bit, appropriate to the subject dealing with loss and trying to be honest about it. The story would have been much improved by introducing more drama around the principal who tells Lazhar not to talk about the previous teacher’s death. Herein lies the subdued nature of the filmmaker. Perhaps this tone comes out of a cultural difference inherent to a foreign film. Monsieur Lazhar is a picture of the importance of human touch, both literal and metaphoric to coping with loss and grief, and the God-breathed need we have for meaningful relationships I walked out of the theater thinking it was an average, 2 star experience, but as I digested it a bit more, the subtle flavors of the movie have won me over and I would give it a 3 out of 4.

About the Author: Tom Sharp

1 Response to "Monsieur Lazhar"

  1. Hi,

    I am looking for the end poem of the film. I did not hear it because I was fighting against emotions too much.

    Where could I find this?

    Thanks a lot


    by Christian Dufour on Mar 3rd, 2012 at 7:32 pm
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