Haydn Radford -A freelance writer born in Adelaide, who loves living here. I write about movies, theatre, entertainment, literary and art events. I am happy to promote & review your events. www.weekendnotes.com/profile/121822
In reply to that question, "Have you seen any good movies lately?" My answer is "Yes, go and see Monsieur Lazhar, the latest feature film from the Canadian director, Philippe Falardeau."
This is the first of Falardeau's feature films I have seen. And after seeing this one, I am keen to see his three previous feature films, The Left Hand side of the Fridge (2000), which screened in several film festivals worldwide and won the city TV Award for the Best Canadian First Feature. In 2006, Congorama was highly praised at numerous film festivals and at New York Momma earned 5 Jutra's Awards including Best Film, Best Direction and Best Screenplay as well as Best Screenplay Award at the Genies in 2007. His third feature It's not me, I swear! (2008) premiered at the TIFF winning the Best Film Award as well as at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival winning the International Jury Award in the Generation section.
I should mention also that Falardeau was selected in 1993 to compete in a TV series where the contestants toured the world making short films. He finally won after shooting 20 short films and won the IDRC Award.
Monsieur Lazhar is based on the hit play of the same name by Evelyne de la Cheneliere. Falardeau's film has a quiet, reflective feeling that the French describe as "intimiste." In a very gentle, subtle yet perceptive manner, Falardeau deals with some major issues as a replacement immigrant teacher attempts to help a mixed class of 11-year old students come to grips with the suicide of their former beloved and troubled teacher. Issues are raised involving violence, injustice, refugees and terrorism as the students and teaching staff struggle to deal with mixed feelings and the school's education policy. It raises questions of how are teachers expected to relate to children at a physical and emotional distance.
One of Falardeau's strengths is his ability to gently introduce humour. It is not the right in your face humour, but as Falardeau explores the relationships between Lazhar and his students and his fellow teaching staff, certain incidents will have you appropriately smiling or chuckling in what is basically a serious drama. This all adds warmth and depth to the story as it unfolds.
The acting by the entire cast is superb. The children appear so genuine and believable in their roles. Fellag is better-known as a stand-up comic, but this is not evident as he plays Lazhar with a certain lightness and assurance in this delicate drama, as he helps the students deal with their feelings of loss while coping with educational policies that insists teachers keep a certain physical and emotional distance when relating to them. Lazhar on the other hand builds a sincere caring for his students who are unable to stop mourning for their teacher.
Why? Based on a hit play with a cast that give excellent performances in a moving film that is serious and unsentimental in its dealings with a suicide and the resulting loss, grief, guilt and exile in a Canadian primary school.