Review: A Real Job
- Thomas Lilti solves the equation of intelligent social exposé meets human comedy with a funny, instructive and moving ensemble film about school teachers
"You think that you know, but you don’t know. The worst part is, you don’t know how to explain what you do know." Everyone always has an opinion about National Education, and for good reason: everyone has already been through the classroom. Governments, the media and the parents are constantly pointing out what is wrong in public education, in a climate where international rankings are paramount (an auspicious terrain for instrumentalisation) and the teachers themselves often feel like they are fighting alone, chronically lacking the means to work properly, not listened to or treated well, lost in an unceasing whirlwind of fake good ideas for reform.
With A Real Job [+see also:
film profile] (released tomorrow in French cinemas by Le Pacte and soon screening out of competition at the 71st San Sebastián Film Festival), Thomas Lilti casts his humanistic gaze on the simple reality of school teachers, showing from their perspective life behind the scenes at school and in their private lives. As he had already successfully done for the medical world (with Hippocrates [+see also:
interview: Thomas Lilti
film profile], Irreplaceable [+see also:
film profile] and The Freshmen [+see also:
film profile]), Lilti here employs his particular cinematic style, which mixes a realism in the representation of the milieu, and a romantic presentation very sensitive to emotions (humour included). At the ideal intersection between arthouse film and popular cinema, the filmmaker once again succeeds in addressing without resorting to caricature the right social questions about an often mistreated profession, and to offer all the positive responses, for those able to see them.
"You’re lucky to have a teacher at all.” Doctoral student Benjamin (Vincent Lacoste) arrives at the collège Victor Hugo (a "normal" establishment, in the Paris banlieue) as a substitute teacher in Maths. He joins a sympathetic team of teachers including, among others, Pierre (François Cluzet), Meriem (Adèle Exarchopoulos), Sandrine (Louise Bourgoin) and Fouad (William Lebghil). Advice for "holding the class" (short hair glasses) or improve the courses (with YouTube tutorials rather than the unsuitable tools of the institution) to more difficult topics (the dilemma about punishing students who have crossed a limit, vocational crises, the weight of an administration that asks of teachers things beyond their abilities, etc.) — the film examines with a magnifying glass the place of the teacher ("powerlessness, failure, injustice, they’re all part of the job") in its professional milieu. But most of all, it shows that teachers are men and women like every other, with lives outside of the school, feelings, hopes, sorrows; it also shows that they are parents too, and the parents of pupils are not always easy to deal with…
Shining a light on that world, putting it in context and offering a different perspective: A Real Job scans the world of today through this microcosm and pays a beautiful tribute to a currently unjustly undervalued profession. For this, Thomas Lilti relies on a group of wonderful actors, on a well structured screenplay (giving space to each of his many characters and to all the facets of teaching he explores) and on his talent for creating empathy and elements of reflexion in a way that feels very alive (often funny, sometimes very moving) and in an willingly optimistic state of mind ("we do everything together, we help each other") without however hiding the difficulties to face and overcome.
(Translated from French)
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