My Old Addiction

Monsieur Lazhar


(out of 5)

A terrible tragedy opens this sweet, low-key drama when children beginning their day at a Montreal primary school are traumatized by the sight of their teacher having hanged herself in their classroom. The principal, rushed to replace her and unable to find anyone on short notice (a contrived and highly suspect plot point), gives in to her own exasperation and hires a recently arrived Algerian immigrant who has just walked into her office in need of a job. The children take to him without much notable incident and he gets along with his fellow staff members, but as the film progresses we see two insidious problems creeping their way to the forefront: Monsieur Lazhar has secrets about the tragedy he left behind in his homeland that he needs to keep hidden, and the shadow of the schoolteacher’s suicide is one that infects the way the children interact with each other despite, and most likely because of, the adults’ best efforts to return to normalcy. Pleasant and sometimes poignant, the film has some wonderful moments of honesty but never moves fully beyond all the clichés it dredges up: the children are marvelous but few of them are more than types, while the screenplay’s emotional content inspires sympathy but not full-on immersion into these characters’ lives.

Canada, 2011

Directed by

Screenplay by Philippe Falardeau, based on the play Bashir Lazhar by

Cinematography by

Produced by ,

Music by

Production Design by

Costume Design by

Film Editing by

Academy Awards 2011

Toronto International Film Festival 2011


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