How is a class of eleven/twelve-year olds to cope with a tragedy that suddenly and out of the blue takes away their teacher? How do parents and teachers react to the trauma the children are experiencing? The school principal is under pressure to keep things "normal", none of the other teachers can take on the class, one school councillor is designated for the class of twenty plus young minds ' a crisis of great proportion' Into this challenging scenario walks Bashir Lazhar and offers himself as the ideal replacement teacher. With great subtlety and compassion does the film, Monsieur Lazhar, explore the evolving relationships between teacher and students, among various teachers and last but not least, between Bashir Lazhar at the school and his personal struggles beyond. The story touches on the different ways of dealing with loss and guilt, with honesty, lies and pretense, with prejudice and expediency. And finally, how the coping mechanisms of adults cannot easily be transferred to those of children living through a crisis. The story concentrates on two of the children, Simon and Alice, their growing hostility and Bashir's strict yet sensitive methods in dealing with the emotional struggles that the children go through.
Mohamed Fellag's acting in the role of Monsieur Lazhar is excellent, his interpretation of his character utterly convincing in his unassuming and often understated acting. The child actors, especially the two interpreting Simon and Alice, come across as natural and genuine. Philippe Falardeau, the film's writer/director came to international attention last year with his film "Incendies" that, like Monsieur Lazhar this year, was nominated for the Academy Award for best foreign-language film. [Friederike Knabe]