Cinema: A serious profession by Thomas Lilti, when teachers feel guilty

In just a few years, Thomas Lilti has established himself as one of the most talented French filmmakers of his generation. Drawing on his past experience in the medical field, he dedicated a most successful triptych to it with Hippocrates, Country doctor And First year. Films that we cannot recommend highly enough to our readers.

With his new feature film, A serious jobThomas Lilti brings together his favorite actors, François Cluzet, Vincent Lacoste and William Lebghil, associates them with Adèle Exarchopoulos, Louise Bourgoin and the young Lucie Zhang, and radically changes his professional environment to rub shoulders with National Education.

The story follows a group of middle school teachers at the start of the school year. A most ordinary establishment where it becomes more and more difficult to teach, between material concerns, the incompetence of the administration, the lack of concentration of the students and their insolence which goes to s getting worse over the years. Benjamin (Vincent Lacoste), a young, inexperienced mathematics teacher and substitute, will fortunately be able to count on the support of his new colleagues, who are helpful and united on all occasions. An idyllic picture, almost too much to be credible… Because this idealized image of solidarity between teachers – who invite themselves to each other’s homes every four mornings to sleep, eat McDonald’s and discuss their professional problems, they will even do some surfing together on a school trip! – would make any teacher with a little practice smile.

Some implausibilities

Perhaps more disturbing, we realize throughout the story that these teachers are systematically made responsible for each difficulty they encounter: the French teacher (François Cluzet) realizes that he has been bothering his students for years because he is being too elitist by making them read Zola (the said students, we are told, prefer to read Romain Gary in their free time! – we don’t believe it for a moment…). The SVT teacher (Louise Bourgoin), equally boring, is treated to a great lesson in demagoguery from an inspector who points out her lack of communication with the class. And the new maths teacher (Vincent Lacoste) feels guilty for having denounced a student who seriously threatened him and who therefore risks being permanently referred to the Disciplinary Council (a complete scum with a name that sounds… Italian!). Obviously, the student in question will apologize at length to the adults, realizing all the harm he has caused… The scruples that accompany the math teacher and his colleagues, sick of seeing that a young person risks being deprived of future, are absolutely improbable.

We also notice that the only teacher who is doing more or less well in terms of discipline is the one who gives the English lessons (William Lebghil), the most demagogic of all, who makes jokes all the time, addresses the kids as his friends and jokes about hard drugs at parents’ meetings (!).

All of this is perfectly produced, staged and interpreted – we regret seeing the talented Lucie Zhang underexploited – but it rings false from start to finish. By wanting, for once, to deviate from the areas he knows, Thomas Lilti fails in style.

What remains is the performance of Adèle Exarchopoulos, always in the measure (she has the only credible role in the film), the flash appearance of Bouli Lanners and the complicity of Vincent Lacoste and William Lebghil whose tandem had already enthused us in First year.

2 stars out of 5

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