Monsieur Lazhar

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Short takes

Not recommended under 15 due to themes

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Monsieur Lazhar
  • a review of Monsieur Lazhar completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 13 September 2012.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 15 Not recommended due to themes

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Monsieur Lazhar
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes
Length: 95 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Bachir Lazhar (Mohammed Fellag) is hired by a public primary school in Montreal to replace a teacher who tragically committed suicide in the classroom. The principal is unaware that Lazhar is not a qualified teacher, but an Algerian refugee who is dealing with the tragic death of his own wife and children and facing possible deportation back to Algeria.

Lazhar’s teaching methods are quite old fashioned, but in his own way he manages to reach the children and help to heal their grief.

Their former teacher Martine was well loved by the children, but was suffering problems of her own.  One of the students, Simon (Émilien Néron) had rejected her advances to reach out and help him and consequently feels to blame for her death. His guilt makes him sullen and aggressive but Lazhar gently brings this out of him and helps Simon return to being a happier boy.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Death and loss of loved ones; suicide; refugees

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Simon finds Martine hanging in the classroom.
  • Monsieur Lazhar cuffs Simon over the head.
  • Lazhar had been threatened with death and execution in Algeria.
  • Lazhar’s wife and children had been deliberately targeted in an apartment fire which killed them all, one of the children jumping to her death.
  • Simon gets into a fight with another boy Victor, and pushes him against the lockers.
  • Victor tells the class that his grandfather had committed suicide after being tortured in Chile.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

Children in this age group are most likely to be disturbed by the violent scenes described above

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the violence mentioned above, there are themes in this movie that could disturb children in this age group, including:

  • It is mentioned that Martine hugged Simon and tried to kiss him. He later retracts the fact that she tried to kiss him, but she did hug him and give him favours, as she saw him as being in need. He reported this to the principal which got Martine into considerable trouble and he sees himself as to blame for her suicide. Simon carries a photo of Martine hanging from a rope.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above mentioned scenes and themes.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes and themes

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Simon interprets Martine’s interactions with him as sexual.

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • drinking at home
  • the principal smokes

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including “shit” and name calling such as “retard”, “goddam coward” and “dick”

In a nutshell

Monsieur Lazhar is a moving drama about dealing with tragedy. The dialogue is in French with English subtitles and the themes of death and suicide make it unsuitable for children and younger teens.

The main messages from this movie are that suffering a tragedy in life can give you empathy to deal with other people’s tragedies and that adults can learn from children as well as vice-versa.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • empathy
  • compassion
  • respect

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • the ramifications of making false accusations
  • the plight of refugees