COMIC DRAMA; 1hr 34min (French with subtitles)
STARRING: Mohamed Fellag, Sophie Nélisse, Émilien Néron
Class mates: Fellag and Year 6
Substitute teaching can’t be easy, especially when your Year 6 class is reeling from the death of their much-loved teacher. As an Algerian immigrant in a Montréal primary school and a man whose history has left him very much physically and culturally alone, Bachir Lazhar (Fellag) is up against it in other ways, as well, and it shows. His outdated methods are disconcerting at first. (Laying a finger on a child? Horreur! ) But Fellag is so old-world gracious in his reserved formality that we warm to him along with the children, willing him to come through.
Québécois writer-director Philippe Falardeau’s reworking of Evelyne de la Chenelière’s 2002 play tells a multifaceted story in flowy vignettes. With a minimum of explanation, the solitary teacher, his dedicated co-workers and the children he cares for are intensely present, in particular Nélisse and Néron as two vulnerable classmates. As the seasons change, one displaced man’s journey evolves into an exploration of community and the passage of healing: big themes, intimately handled.