I had the opportunity to go to a free showing of Monsieur Lazhar at the Westmount Public Library (This library is amazing, and puts on a ton of interesting events).
This film, no word of a lie, helped me to understand why french-canadian filmmakers are considered the top in the country. It is a french language film, set in Montreal, but was happily subtitled in English. It centers on the suicide of a young female teacher at an elementary school, the struggle of the students to cope with her demise, and the new teacher, Monsieur Lazhar, who comes on the scene to teach them in their time of grief.
Lazhar himself, a refugee from Algeria, has been through some hard times as well, and is deeply familiar with coping with grief. An unlikely teacher, who lied his way into the position, Lazhar winds up helping the students more than any well-meaning attempts at counselling or treating the suicide as taboo do.
The movie is also visually quite stunning, having a sort of crisp and unpretentious clarity that screams "this is life". From what I could tell (though my knowledge of french is so limited that I could not catch all of the inflections properly) the film was also very well acted, featuring some truly impressive child actors. Lazhar himself was well done, his grief deep and subtle, his love of the children equally so. The script was amazing, dialogue fluid, and the characters and their psychoses very believable.
On a different note, it was also a lot of fun to sit in a crowd of nature french speakers watching a french language movie and be able to laugh with them at little jokes, like Montreal being referred to as the slush city. It made me feel like I belonged here, in a way I haven't really until now.
Apparently the Westmount Public Library does this every month. I think I should make a habit of attending!