User Score
7.6

Generally favorable reviews- based on 32 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 32
  2. Negative: 2 out of 32

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  1. Sep 10, 2012
    9
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. So formidable is Sister Aloysius, the principal of the St. Nicholas Church School, whom the kids, her Catholic subordinates, fear, as evidenced by an early scene where the abbess' voice, like an electric charge, jolts the slumbering parishioners into a comically exaggerated alertness during Father Flynn's sermon, that we believe this woman, this nun, is all-powerful. It comes as a shock then, later, in Doubt, when the priest, summoned into the principal's office, seizes this illusory power, by appropriating the chair behind her desk as his own. It's a man's world, a Catholic life of subjugation for any God-fearing woman, Sister Aloysius included, and in this man's world, the devotional female serves tea, and listens to what the dominant sex has to say about the Christmas pageant, and all matters of pontification. Accused of molesting an altar boy, the school's only black student, Flynn goes on the offensive, feigning a show of transparency by daring the nun to call the pastor from his last parish. While Mr. McGuinn(the school custodian), a witness, has no obligation to conspire against the veracity of the cleric's moral excellency, Flynn's prior colleague does, which is what the accused father is counting on, as he writes a letter to the monsignor recommending Sister Aloysius' removal, while once again, assuming her seat without his ballpoint pen ever breaking stride. You can see the nun thinking, biding her time while the priest employs these diversionary tactics. Back when she gave Flynn the benefit of the doubt, in rote fashion(doubt already creeping), she recites the church's chain of command to Sister James, in the event should some ecclesiastical calamity strike her dominion, but now that the benefit is gone, this nun, emancipated, suddenly, from Catholicism's patriarchal hegemony, tells him that he spoke to her own kind, not his. The lie works. The scribbling stops, as the cowed priest is made impotent forthwith by the sister's insubordination, and resigns from St. Nicholas. His departure, tantamount to an admission of guilt. The plot against him is won, albeit it's a win tempered by apostolic machinations. Flynn's transgressions would amount to career suicide in most cases, but as is usually the case, the clergymen connive together and close ranks, obfuscating the truth under the aegis of a monolithic persuasion that encourages silence. For a schoolteacher, however, career suicide begets an actual suicide, in Monsieur Lazhar, which tells the story of a man without any educational credentials who finagles his way into teaching a group of traumatized pre-teens at The School of Rock(and a Hard Place), a school knee-deep in mourning, and perhaps, a school that is harboring a terrible secret. Bachir Lazhar, unbeknownst to his employer, Mme. Vailiancourt, is not a citizen, but a refugee with a temporary visa. In spite of his Muslim faith, he too, just like any westerner, becomes a victim of Islamic fundamentalism, when he learns that the family was killed in an apartment fire, a maliciously-set blaze intented to silence his outspoken wife, a journalist, who wrote a book criticizing the former French colony's reconciliation. At Bachir's asylum hearing, he explains to the court that "they" don't like it when women make their voices heard. Does "they" include the teacher, as well? He is a Muslim, after all, albeit not a terrorist. During a PTA meeting with the McCarthys, whose daughter brazenly corrects his outmoded grammar in class, Bachir describes Frederique as "rigid", and that "she loves to cite the rules". Possibly, the girl reminds him of his wife. A bad thing? Earlier, he's banished from class, when the school psychologist, a female, conducts her session with the children. What is he thinking? Left to wander the school hallways, Bachir acquaints himself with the janitor and a fellow teacher, Gilbert, who informs the new hire that he increased the male contingent by 50%, describing the Montreal public school as a "woman-ocracy". These women, friends of the deceased, act like a cabal, akin to apologists for a woman that may have acted inappropriately with a male student, Simon, who first discovers the dangling educator in his homeroom. Alice, the boy's best friend, blames Simon for their teacher's death, even though she hugged, and possibly tried to kiss the 11-year-old child. Although the gym teacher wears a whistle, he doesn't play the part of whistleblower like Sister Aloysius. In Doubt, Flynn wears his nails long, a trait meant to signify the wolf, and in Monsieur Lazhar, Alice tells her teacher that the wolf(from Jack London's White Fang) is her favorite animal, thereby referencing Flynn's counterpart. Something happened. "You don't know anything," the boy screams at the girl. Although the teacher didn't kiss Simon, she, perhaps, made the boy flinch, like William London, whenever Flynn came near him. Isn't her death a confession? Expand
  2. Apr 25, 2012
    10
    A remarkably engrossing film on a number of levels. Set in a primary school in Quebec (Francophone) its characters are remarkably well-drawn whether they be students, teachers, or administrators. The psychological, political, and moral questions that arise because of a particular event in the school are handled with force but also tact. The performances and cinematography are superb.
Metascore
83

Universal acclaim - based on 31 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 31
  2. Negative: 0 out of 31
  1. Reviewed by: Shawn Levy
    Jun 7, 2012
    83
    Discreet, delicate, and cautious, Monsieur Lazhar takes you by surprise -- and that goes for both the movie and the man.
  2. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Jun 1, 2012
    88
    Until a devastatingly effective finale, Monsieur Lazhar is an exercise in delicacy, carried by Fallag's gentle performance and a fine cast of kid actors.
  3. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    May 24, 2012
    90
    The catharsis found here is far quieter, and much more effective, whether it be the pain expressed in a student's essay or the honesty found in a simple gesture, one that ends the film in beautifully moving fashion.