With his background in frenetic action films, French director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) is an odd fit for this deliberately paced romantic drama about the life of Aung San Suu Kyi (Michelle Yeoh), a freedom fighter who spearheaded an effort to bring a democratic government to Burma during the 1990s. But the film focuses more heavily on her relationship with her husband, Oxford professor Michael Aris (David Thewlis), who supports her even when it puts a strain on the marriage. Yeoh’s performance and Besson’s visuals are each more compelling than the script, which leaves its inspirational true-life subject stranded amid formulaic melodrama. (Rated R, 132 minutes).
The laughs are sporadic and the poignancy is elusive in this low-budget comedy about Kim (Krysten Ritter), a reformed party girl who accidentally becomes pregnant, then struggles to juggle the challenges and responsibilities of single motherhood. Her neurotic outbursts put a strain put on her friendship with roommates Deena (Kate Bosworth) and Laura (Rachel Bilson). The ensemble cast tries its best with generic material that offers little insight into contemporary relationships. There are some amusing moments in the talky script by rookie director Kat Coiro, but the film is less concerned with providing substance and more with offering broad quirks and happy endings. (Not rated, 101 minutes).
This Oscar-nominated Canadian drama is a quietly powerful crowd-pleaser about a Montreal middle school whose students are forced to confront tragedy when their beloved teacher commits suicide. Enter the title character (Mohamed Fellag), a middle-aged Algerian immigrant who uses an eccentric teaching style and unusual curriculum to help the grieving students heal while also confronting his own troubled past. Writer-director Philippe Falardeau smartly keeps the focus as much on the children as on Lazhar, and the result is not only a poignant saga of teacher-student relations, but a restrained and hopeful examination of the mourning process on children. The portrayal by Fellag is a highlight. (Rated PG-13, 94 minutes).