Movies about education are seldom convincing; their depiction of what goes on in the classroom hardly ever tallies with our own experiences. So the sweet and poignant Quebecois film Monsieur Lazhar is a rare pleasure.
Lee Hirsch’s documentary Bully rings false from beginning to end. The film wants to sound alarm bells about the prevalence of bullying in public schools, which is certainly a very real problem. But like the recently completed trilogy of TV documentaries about the child murders at Robin Hood Hills and the young men who were evidently scapegoated for the crime, the movie has a tawdry, voyeuristic quality that keeps distracting you from its alleged agenda.
The Dardenne brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc, are known for their low-key, plot-light, character-heavy tales of survival, usually played out in a small Belgian town that serves as their spiritual microcosm and often focused on the struggles of children to make it to adulthood in one piece. The Kid with a Bike, which won a top prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, continues down this path, though Dardenne purists may find fault with the film’s upbeat conclusion, a contrast to the harsher endings of their earlier efforts.
Readers of a certain age may remember “women’s pictures,” those four-hankie weepies from the 1940s and ’50s. Celebrated British director Terence Davies has lovingly embraced the once-popular genre via an adaptation of the 1952 play The Deep Blue Sea.
There’s no faster way for a movie to earn the disdain of critics than to rack up exorbitant costs and then fall on its face. And yes, John Carter, based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs fantasy A Princess of Mars, would be a better picture if it hadn’t cost $250 million, most of which is clearly visible in the overextended, dull Martian battle sequences.
Along the Beaver Creek, lobelia clings to the soil, foiling its every effort to sneak into the stream, which riffles over rocks below, aerating the water that fuels the wetland where a dragonfly squints its blue, bulbous eyes, spying mosquitoes mating, then steers its body to reach their next move. Do you dare, while traipsing this trail and glancing milkweed blossoms, to covet anything your neighbor may have?
Six months later, and a mile away, on a lime-dusted field, a singular tree, its leaves shorn and humming in wind somewhere south, waits. Winter will bear a crop of snow, which will deepen with the season and wrap around the stoic oak. No one will amble by for months. Driving by, will you sing your praise purely from the road’s safe distance?
In between, where there is so much time, when inspiration won’t spread its wings and raise its crimson head,
when nothing but mud dominates the wetland, when tarnished tin is the only color the sky can muster,
what then? Will you savor the age-old scent of the now-and-not-yet, sense its tension in the toppled tree, damp and fungus festooned,