Although this movie came out last year, it only recently made it to theaters in my area. And even though I’m not too adept at movie reviews yet, Monsieur Lazhar deserves some description.
This film was sad in ways I wasn’t expecting, but not terribly depressing. Instead, the sadness was balanced by a poetic side that became more literal at the movie’s end. It wasn’t hard to like Lazhar, especially when his history as an Algerian refugee is revealed through scenes with his lawyer and the Canadian board of immigration.
Usually I prefer movies with a clear and defined plot structure, but this one was just ambiguous enough that I didn’t mind. It’s about the benefit of getting things out in the open, and how that’s the most important lesson Lazhar teaches his new students, even if their parents don’t agree. It doesn’t help to keep everything inside, no matter how normal you might seem to everyone else. This story of a Montreal classroom sharing an experience this heavy, as heavy as a teacher’s suicide, is somehow made uncomplicated and beautiful through simple shots and direct dialogue.
It’s interesting how much emphasis Lazhar places on French pronunciation and dictation in his classroom, almost as if it parallels his desire for the students to be able to properly express themselves. His eagerness to get involved in the classroom therapy sessions is almost adorable, as he walks around outside the room when he’s rejected. Somehow, Lazhar understands things the other adults don’t: that you can’t truly compartmentalize your life when something this tragic happens to those so young. Even if he doesn’t attend the group therapy sessions in class, the kids will still be thinking about it once he’s rejoined them and begun the lesson. The only way to deal with grief is directly and together– not alone inside yourself; that’s what Monsieur Lazhar tries to teach us as we become students too.
|From Slate Magazine’s review at Slate.com|
|From NYTime’s review at movies.nytimes.com|