Monsieur Lazhar (2011)

“Boris, get some air.
It’s easy, put on your coat, open your eyes, open your nostrils.
Breathe, run around, play.
Fly away if you can.
You’ll see that your migraine has flown away too.”

Note: Honestly, this is one of the hardest reviews I’ve written. I have written many versions of it over the past few months, trying to do it the justice it deserves without being overwhelmingly personal. I hope this works, even though it isn’t very analytical.

When reading the premise of Monsieur Lazhar one would be forgiven for quite a lot of eye-rolling. After all, this topic and setting is almost cruelly easy to screw up, but with a beautifully light hand, director Farladeau mitigates the schmaltz of saccharine films like Pay It Forward to create an incredible, satisfyingly moving drama.

Now, I could spend the rest of this review talking about what an amazing portrait of dealing with crippling loss the film is (another topic that is important to me), but that would be avoiding exactly why it cut so deep. The truth is, I don’t think I have ever seen as more of my younger self in a character as I see in Alice L’Écuyer (Sophie Nelisse) and her experience at school and the effect the opening event has on her. I don’t share much of what is the basic plotline of the film with her (absent parents, the tragedy at the beginning), but, wow, the scenes at the school were achingly familiar and frequently moved me to tears. I was the kid that talked to the teachers at lunchtime and when there was free time in class. I worked hard and was always the first to answer a question. My teachers meant, and still mean, so much to me. This is why Monsieur Lazhar deeply affected me so, because the thought of losing someone who means so much to me, regardless of the who or when, is excruciatingly terrifying and something I’m eternally grateful I’ve never had to deal with.

That’s why I’m grateful for Monsieur Lazhar. It’s a film that conveys my past unlike no other, that profound effect teachers have on children and how they change lives irrevocably. Those small moments that happen in a classroom that looks simple from the outside, but immediately evoke memories of happiness and belonging, shaping a life.

Dealing with death, the increasing coddling of children and the emotional, but never over-nostalgic or sentimentalised events in ones schooling life, Monsieur Lazhar is a knockout, never falling to the temptation of making children precocious or over-articulate.

If I’m being perfectly honest, it’s been a while since a film moved me as much asMonsieur Lazhar. I had three teachers like Monsieur Lazhar, and never before have a found a final scene that seems to have been pulled straight from by past.

Rating: 4.5/5

-Ella

Monsieur Lazhar received a limited release on September 6, 2012. 

M (mature themes), 95 mins.

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