Teacher-student dynamics are often a popular choice for films. From Dead Poets Society to Freedom Writers, these type of movies gain considerable success and widespread critical acclaim. But the plot can be traced easily: students are unruly; teacher brings loving wisdom; students graduate with knowledgable minds and inspired hearts. But Monsieur Lazhar, the Oscar-nominated French-Canadian drama, transcends its Hollywood counterparts: there is no bowtie-wrapped ending and it doesn’t blush at questioning societal standards. Monsieur Lazhar is a fresh little film that packs a powerful punch, giving a realistic portrayal of how student-teacher relationships should be.
The Monsieur in this film is Bachir Lazhar (Mohammed Fellag), an Algerian immigrant with a haunting past. Across the globe, a small French school and a small class is trying to overcome a recent suicide by their teacher, where she left her hanging body for her students to see. Lazhar, who is looking for work, agrees to act as temporary substitute for the disturbed class; he meets a class full with distraught children, though their pain isn’t obvious. The kids handle the death quietly, but Lazhar discovers major secrets, trying to heal their insurmountable grief and simultaneously handle his own demons.
The best thing about Monsieur Lazhar: it admits it doesn’t has all the answers. But it stirs up certain questions in the viewer that leaves a deep impression. Why is our current school system so stringent about touching, even the most innocent hug or pat on the back? Why are children forced to be hushed up when they possess reasonable questions and paramount ideas? The film presents these ideas and the result is superb: with skilled performances from both teacher and student, combined with a powerfully written script, Monsieur Lazhar teaches the audience many lessons.