Quebec filmmaker Philippe Falardeau weaves a sad, gorgeous commentary on grief, immigrant struggle and educational bureaucracy in Monsieur Lazhar
, an adaptation of a one-man stage play. Having escaped persecution in Algeria, the title character (Fellag) takes charge of a Montreal classroom where the previous teacher took her own life, a suicide that’s left the pre-teen students in varying degrees of shock. Lazhar has the unenviable task of managing the children’s feelings and mastering the North American curriculum and culture, while simultaneously navigating Canada’s refugee system and mourning his own family. Falardeau gets fantastic work from Fellag, who invests Lazhar with unwavering dignity even as the character grapples with roiling emotions, and the young children, who prove to be less hysterical than their adult minders in the wake of tragedy.