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Published on Sep 19, 2011
A school day in wintry Montreal starts off like any other, until tragedy strikes. While the principal and teachers are scrambling to come up with a plan to help the students and staff cope, an Algerian refugee and teacher by the name of Bachir Lazhar shows up out of the blue. One thing leads to another, and M. Lazhar begins work as a substitute teacher -- and is faced with the task of schooling a group of traumatized pre-adolescents.
A gentle soul -- and a bit of a nerd, perhaps -- M. Lazhar brings his rather formal, old-school pedagogical methodology to a very contemporary classroom with effective, occasionally comic, results. He soon finds that dictating Balzac to the children is an exercise beyond their reach -- but once he gets their desks in proper rows, he is able to see to it that their French composition improves in leaps and bounds.
Over the rest of the school year, M. Lazhar gently guides the children through their grief and sorrow, developing a particularly close relationship with two of the students who were most affected by the terrible event that occurred that winter's morning. Meanwhile, M. Lazhar is coming to terms with a heartrending tragedy of his own, the dreadful nature of which he keeps to himself, and which colors his every action.
Canada's foreign-language Academy Award entry, winner of the award for Best Canadian Feature at Toronto and two prizes at Locarno, including the Prix du Public, director Philippe Falardeau's Monsieur Lazhar is a complex study of loss and heartbreak, healing and love. Touching, charming, eloquent -- and often very funny -- it shows us that coming to terms with tragedy, whatever its magnitude, is a shared journey.