Not nearly as gentle as the French doc To Be and To Have, but just as good if not better. The film doesn't fall prey to the out of classroom silliness that Half Nelson devolved into. Instead, the film simply chronicles one year in a class of 12 and 13-year-olds.
The movie is based on a semi-autobiographical book that François Bégaudeau wrote and he plays himself in the movie. The students are all non-professional actors and most of the scenes are improvised - the kids were not given scripts. The bulk of the film is class time. Bégaudeau has a great approach with the kids. He challenges them. He respects them. He argues with them. The students often don't quite know what to make of him.
I could have watched the scenes in the classroom all day. But the parent teacher conferences were just as entertaining. The whole thing enthralled me. But Meryl Streep saving inner city children type film this is not. Sure, Bégaudeau makes some inroads with some of the kids but at the end of the day, it's hard to tell just how successful Bégaudeau has really been. It doesn't diminish the day-to-day effort that Bégaudeau and others like him make and there are many small moments of glory. But overall you don't necessarily leave the theater feeling uplifted.
But you will leave it feeling satisfied with having seen an excellent film.
Directed by Laurent Cantet
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