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Monsieur Lazhar


Stars: Fellag, Sophie Nélisse, Emilien Néron, Danielle Proulx, Marie-Eve Beauregard, Vincent Millard, Louis-David Leblanc

Director: Philippe Fulardeau

A nice, gentle French-Canadian film about Bachir Lazhar (Fellag), an Algerian political refugee - a restaurateur in his native land - who flees to Canada ahead of his wife and children, only to learn that they have perished in a deliberately-set fire.

At the same time, the teacher of a class of 11- and 12-year-olds hangs herself in the classroom, to be found later by pupils Alice (Nélisse) and Simon (Néron), who had complained about the teacher when she hugged him. Soon after, Bazhar applies for the vacant teaching post. Since no one else wants the job, and the head (Proulx) is unaware of his inexperience (both seem unlikely, but then we wouldn't have a film), he's appointed.

After initially giving the children tasks beyond their capabilities, Lazhar settles into helping and advancing a class still traumatised by recent events, and wins their love and affection.

You kind of hope Lazhar won't be rumbled, but it's hard to see where else the film can head for a properly-staged ending. The performances are quietly effective and the difference in cultural backgrounds skilfully sketched in.

David Quinlan

Canada 2011. UK Distributor: Soda. Colour (unspecified).
95 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 30 Apr 2012