January 5, 2014
Movie Review: Monsieur Lazhar *****
Here's my 2012 review:
If you don't see another movie this year go see Monsieur Lazhar. Even if you hate subtitles.
There's a glut of vapid rom-coms and summer action films flooding the movie market right now, so if that's your thing you're in for a great time. But if you want to see a film that's subtle and poignant, and will grab your heart, Monsieur Lazhar is the one to see.
The story begins with kids on a playground, then gorgeous photography of the interior of the school as young Simon goes to get the milk and take it to the classroom. Finding the door locked, he looks through the window and (if you hate knowing anything about a film before you see it STOP HERE and just go rent the film), sees his beloved teacher hanging from a pipe. It's a heart-stopping moment where I gasped, even though I knew the premise. Simon drops the crate of milk and goes running through the halls and the camera stays on the empty hall as you hear his footsteps receding. See what I mean about subtle? An American film would show him running down the hall, tears and snot spewing from his face, just in case we didn't get the emotion. Foreign films give the audience so much more credit than (most) American films.
But I digress.
Monsieur Lazhar, an Algerian immigrant with a wrenching story of his own, has read of the tragedy and goes to the school to offer his services to replace the dead teacher. Monhamed Fellag is wonderful and affecting as Lazhar - he has a face for film. He works to help the children through their grief, and his humanity and compassion trump the school's rules and regulations; don't talk about the dead teacher, don't talk about suicide, don't touch the children.
The final scene is killer. If I'd not been in public I would have thrown myself to the floor and sobbed.
This is a must-see. You'll think about this film long after it's over.
Five stars out of five for Monsieur Lazhar.
Oh, and one thing about subtitles: when you lose yourself in the film you won't even realize you're reading. Try it, you'll see. So worth it.