I loved this movie; I found it completely satisfying and well rounded. It started off on a disconcerting note; a schoolboy of 11 or 12, Simon,
takes the daily milk for his classmates to the classroom, and finds his schoolteacher has hanged herself in the schoolroom. M Lazhar is obviously a man for the main chance: before the position is advertised, he has presented himself for the job, referring to 16 years of teaching in Algiers as his main qualification. His background is fed to us throughout the movie: suffice it to say that he has a traumatic in Algiers and is seeking asylum in Quebec. That is in the background, however: the focus is on him fitting in to the new environment
and of the kids and their teachers dealing in their own ways with Martine's death. He is very old-school, makes the pupils do dictation and, what's worse, from an author as outmoded as Balzac. Apparently there has been a sea-change in grammatical terminology: one pupil takes to chiding M Lazhar for talking about possessives and pronouns.
He is also told in no uncertain terms by his principal that touching of pupils, whether to give them a clip round the head, a hug or to apply sunscreen on a school outing. This becomes a major notion in this film, as several kids clearly come to need the comfort of a hug. It is also used to round out one of the minor characters, the PE teacher, Gaston, who comes across as a whistle-blowing moron - but the whistle has become a symbol for the inability to touch students: as he says, it isn't much help to him when he has to assist a pupil on the pommel horse.
Labels: NZIFF 2012