Monsieur Lazhar

This award-winning PG-13 dramedy from Montréal (English captions) is in its final week in local theaters, so I've pretty much limited you to rentals or your favorite library to see this wonderful film. If you have ever had anything to do with teaching or school administration, you will relate to this story about an Algerian immigrant who volunteers to teach a class of 11 & 12 year olds after their teacher hangs herself in the classroom.

Of course grief counselors, psychiatrists, etc., are dispatched to help the children cope with this sudden and shocking calamity, while their new teacher makes careful observations and tries to use his own personal loss in order to help. It's clear that the school principal is trying her best to do what is necessary for her students, but school policy as a result of recent court rulings and militant parents make her job challenging. E.g., teachers aren't allowed to touch the children in any way; coaches can't offer physical contact to their pupils; teachers can't embrace children in need of comfort or congratulations, and the absurdity of overreaction is obvious.

In addition, we smile as our hero struggles to adjust to an alien culture, e.g., watch him try to be polite when offered some Rice Krispie Treats. His class is quickly attuned to his adjustments; even though they might laugh, they help him nonetheless. His methods are archaic because they are based in Algeria, so the students help him with those, as well.

I won't name the actors but let me stress that these are attractive capable professionals who will win your heart for their characters. You see the teacher's pet, the bright one, the class clown, the petty bully, the sickly child, the "slow" student and the whole litany of stereotypes we all remember from our own school days.

We end up caring deeply what happens to each person and we know them all on a personal level. These are all good reasons why this was nominated for a 2012 Academy Award and won numerous film festival awards along with being nominated for many more. This is an enter- taining, worthwhile film, particularly for educators, parents or anyone who was ever a student.
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Here is a link to a preview:
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