This enchanting, compelling film is a slice of reality served poignantly by writer and director Philippe Falardeau, based on the play by Evelyne de la Cheneliere addressing loss, trauma, guilt; young and mature souls , seeking a curative redemption.
“Monsieur Lazhar” (magnificently and sensitively portrayed by Mohamed Fellag) an Algerian immigrant, is hired as a substitute teacher after a beloved instructor’s horrific demise. Middle school children( powerfully acted by neophytes) desperately seeking answers, their naive minds and hearts unprepared for the blackest of circumstances.
Rarely will you see a movie so perfectly balanced; with flawless pace and grace the plot unfolds, unmasking the pain of both instructor and pupils; nothing is as it seems. Monsieur Lazhar employs unconventional methods to ignite the imaginations and skills of his young, tortured charges. “Alice” (exquisite portrayal by Sophie Nelisse) and “Simon” (Emilien Neron) embody the evolvement of fledgling immaturity into precocious maturity. It is astounding that untrained actors give amazing, succinct, award-winning performances.
Monsieur Lazhar is a teacher who believes in discipline, respect; he is burdened by overwhelming events in his life and relates to the suffering of his young students. He teaches the fables of La Fontaine and with lightening perspicacity has the students compose their own fable. Alice’s speech is the highlight and climax of this stunning (lacking all artifice, sentimentality) forceful character analysis; it is unlikely that these individuals will fade from memory.
Many have had a “Monsieur Lazhar” in their lives; a teacher whose inspiration, devotion, passion opened windows of wisdom, unknown, dormant vistas, erasing barriers blocking creativity; with their electrifying stimulation, came recognition, accomplishment; a life of fulfillment, contentment, knowing you tested the waters and swam, maybe not at the Olympic level, but a medal winner, nonetheless.
The gift of “Monsieur Lazhar” was remembering the teacher who saw what was unseen by others, even yourself; leaving the theatre realizing it had been many years since I recalled my muse, Ms. Moline, without whom, I might not have chosen “the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference.”
FOUR & 1/2 STARS!!!!