A teacher dies tragically, leaving her eleven- and twelve-year-old students variously bereft, disoriented, and determined not to react. Days later, Bachir Lazhar (Mohamed Fellag) -- an émigré from Algeria with years of teaching experience who's trying to put a calamity of his own behind him -- presents himself as a replacement. His classroom style is different from what the kids have gotten used to; he prefers orderly rows of desks to the "team-building" semi-circle, and the school's administrator (Danielle Proulx) has to tell him that he can't just casually whap a misbehaving boy upside the head.
I liked that about the film, that it understood this and that it let the audience figure it out. It stuck with me, the ending that leaves things unsaid, the courtly reserve of Lazhar that wavers but doesn't break, the connections made or sought. The acting is uniformly good and natural; Emilien Neron as Simon is overmatched in a couple of scenes, but he's asked to play a reveal that may not fit in the first place, and on the whole, the kids (and Proulx) seem like they could be in a documentary.
I don't think Monsieur Lazhar wins its category, but it's a good movie. It trusts you.
Sarah D. Bunting co-founded Television Without Pity.com, and has written for Seventeen, New York Magazine, MSNBC.com, Salon, Yahoo!, and others. She's the chief cook and bottle-washer at TomatoNation.com. For more on how the Oscars Death Race began, click here.
RT @RachelShukert: Julie Andrews is a brilliant actress, you know? Sometimes we don't remember.Posted 12 hours ago
RT @AnnaKendrick47: Yes girl, bust out that belt again! @carrieunderwood #SoundOfMusicPosted 12 hours ago
RT @mattzollerseitz: From THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS presentation at @BookCourt in Brooklyn tonight. Photo by @gilbertcruz. http://t.co/o9Yimk73IGPosted 12 hours ago
RT @ebertvoices: ICYMI: OUT OF THE FURNACE comes off as a "wannabe DEER HUNTER" that lacks a sense of control, says @mattzollerseitz. http:…Posted 22 hours ago