Another profession I couldn’t do. Teacher. Especially in an urban, multi-cultural school where the balance between discipline and dialogue is so delicate. François Bégaudeau, a teacher in real life, plays a version of himself. So that the film is part drama, part documentary- a hybrid that captures the dilemma of a teacher that cares, dealing with students who seemingly don”t. Seemingly, because, as we learn there are some things that are very important to them: respect for one thing. And the students are wary of the R word indicating a one way street. Much of the film revolves around respect – mutual and otherwise.
There’s also the underlying fact that in the French school system, there are dual paths, and the dividing line can be consequential. Expulsion from school can change your life. There’s a scene toward the end of the film that brings this home in a somber way.
Not only is the lead actor a former teacher, but the students are all amateurs from the same school. And some of them are really good. I guess acting out things you really passionately believe in, can bring you a long way.
This is not (thank God), one of those inspiring tales of self-sacrifice for a higher cause: teacher as saint and soul saver. No. Both the teacher and the students here don’t fit so easily in the black or white boxes. Much to the films credit.