Review – The Power of One (“Monsieur Lazhar”)
Canada’s entry for 2012’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, “Monsieur Lazhar” is a quiet, sweet and deceptively simple film that tells the story of Bachir Lazhar, an Algerian refugee who offers his services as a substitute teacher for an elementary school class that has lost its teacher. The circumstances of the teacher’s death, the students’ and staff’s reaction to it, and Lazhar’s own back-story combine to create a compelling film that has a lot to say about the barriers we place between ourselves and our children today.
Mohammd Fellag, an Algerian comedian, writer and humorist, portrays Monsieur Lazhar, and is surrounded by an exceptional cast of juvenile actors, led by Sophie Nelisse and Emilien Neron. The performances in this film are uniformly superb which, given the subject matter, is quite an accomplishment (particularly for the young actors portraying the classmates.)
Lazhar’s attempts to deal with his students’ grief, their cultural and educational differences, the rigid requirements of an educational system, and his own difficulties and loss all culminate in a final scene of incredible power and emotion - the power of one person to connect with another, the power of one act to convey incredible meaning.
“Monsieur Lazhar” is worthy of the honors it has received and worth a trip to the theatre.
Now playing in the San Francisco Bay Area at Landmark's Embarcadero Center Cinema and Albany Twin. Check your local theatre listings.
In French with English subtitles