Good mourning, class | Movie Sidebar | Chicago Reader

Good mourning, class 

An Algerian refugee takes charge of grieving grade schoolers in Monsieur Lazhar

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Both teacher and students get a lesson in loss in Philippe Falardeau's Monsieur Lazhar.

Both teacher and students get a lesson in loss in Philippe Falardeau's Monsieur Lazhar.

In this French Canadian feature by Philippe Falardeau, a standard liberal tale about an inspirational teacher gradually deepens into a quiet study of how grief works its way through a community. The death of a young grade school instructor shocks her students and colleagues alike, though, as one child astutely observes, the institutional response speaks more to the adults' trauma than the children's. Into this cauldron walks the title character (Mohamed Fellag), a gentle Algerian refugee with his own history of terrible loss, and as he tries to take over the dead woman's class, his rocky relationship with the kids pushes both him and them to new levels of empathy, understanding, and forgiveness.

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