It’s sixth-grader Simon’s day to deliver milk cartons at school before classes start. But when he arrives, he makes an awful discovery… his teacher has hanged herself inside the classroom. When school officials realize what has happened, they keep the other children away, but Simon’s best friend, Alice, slips through and sees the body hanging. To say that they are traumatized is an understatement, particularly because, as we later learn, they share a dark secret about the teacher. Enter Monsieur Lazhar, an Algerian immigrant who volunteers for the unenviable task of taking over as the teacher of the stricken class.

Enter, too, a plot flaw. The school principal hires Bachir Lazhar without checking his references. Okay, she knows it will be hard to find a teacher who is willing to step into such an unpleasant situation, but isn’t that exactly why she would take more care? I pointed this out to a couple of other film attendees and each said a variation of the same thing: “It’s a movie; so what.”

Lazhar’s story of having been a teacher back in Algeria for nineteen years is a lie, but because of his own sad history and his natural sensitivity to children, he turns out to be right person for the job after all. Mohamed Fellag is excellent in the role of Bachir Lazhar, and all in all this is a touching and satisfying film.