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aww, the little kitten's trying not to fall asleep...cute...

aww, the little kitten's trying not to fall asleep...cute...

This movie is in French, with English subtitles.


François Bégaudeau, Franck Keïta, Rachel Regulier, Esmeralda Ouertani

François: Souleymane, stop rocking and read your self portrait.
Souleymane: I’m Souleymane.  I have nothing to say about me because no one knows me but me.
François: That’s good…a bit long maybe.

François Marin (Bégaudeau) is a French teacher in an inner-city school in Paris.  He desperately tries to get his students interested in learning about the language that they speak, but like most students, these kids don’t want to be there, and they’ll do just about anything to derail his teaching.

This movie is based on a book that the lead actor, François Bégaudeau, wrote, documenting his experiences as a literature teacher in Paris.  It’s filmed in a documentary-like way, with first time actors filling almost every single role in the film.  It’s hard for me to comment on how well they performed due to the fact that it’s in French.  I can’t judge their line readings, but I can judge their expressions and physical acting.  For the most part, those aspects seemed quite authentic.

Not all of the time is spent in the classroom, though.  We also get a behind the scenes look at the teachers as well.  I loved the scene at the beginning where they all meet up before the first day and discuss the upcoming year.  There’s a great moment where one teacher is going through a class roster with a new teacher, pointing out which students are nice, not nice, and which ones will be big trouble.  It made me wonder what my teachers said about me in school.

This is not the feel good movie of the year, where the teacher ends up having students standing on desks saying “oh captain my captain”, and they definitely don’t go off and win some big academic competition at the end.  The victories here are when a student actually listens in class or demonstrates an enjoyment of reading.  The failures are when a student comes to François on the last day of the year and admits to him that she learned absolutely nothing this year, and to a greater extent when François loses his cool, insults some students, and nearly has a fight erupt in class.

I don’t recall ever being in a class that was quite this rowdy in my school days, but there were certainly a few times when it came close, and this movie is probably the best depiction of that sort of situation that you’re going to see.  It can be frustrating, it can make you question who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong, but it always seems real.  And that’s probably the most depressing aspect of it.

It can be very hard to make people WANT to learn something.

10 – .7 for a few slow parts – .5 for some story lines that weren’t really resolved – .4 for a few performances not quite on the level of the others = 8.4