One morning, an elementary class finds their teacher’s body hung in the classroom. Lazhar, an Algerian immigrant, is hired for replacement. He will teach the children how to deal with loss; he will also gain from his pupils’ innocence.
A primary-school class is horrified by a most unpleasant event. Simon finds his teacher Martine after she has hung herself in the classroom. Her replacement, the strict yet fair Algerian immigrant Bachir Lazhar, first tries to teach the children the literature of Honoré de Balzac. In vain, as they have other things on their mind. The suicide left a deep wound, especially on Simon and Alice. Bachir is himself in the meantime wrestling with family problems and can be thrown out of the country at any moment.
Even if the serious themes of loss, death, guilt and innocence make one think otherwise, this film based on a play by Evelyne de la Chenelière is charming, tender and at times even strikingly humorous. The good-natured Bachir is played subtly and movingly by Mohamed Fellag. Falardeau manages to stimulate Émilien Néron (Simon) and Sophie Nélisse (Alice) to play very profound roles, as he had done previously with the child actors in It's not me, I swear! The result is a loving, warm audience film like Être et avoir.