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Staff & contributors

Taking place almost entirely in a single classroom, the two-hour-plus runtime of this French drama breezes past thanks to its sheer unrelenting energy. You’d be forgiven for assuming The Class is a documentary, so fly-on-the-wall is the filming and so naturalistic the dialogue, much of which was improvised from loose guidelines.

Unlike so many cinematic teachers, Monsieur Marin (played by co-screenwriter François Bégaudeau) doesn’t pull off any educational miracles with his class of backchatting 15-year-olds at an inner-city Paris school. Although the French literature teacher does make some inroads with disaffected kids like Souleymane (Franck Keïta), what really boosts The Class’ grade is its refusal to valorize its central figure. There are no rousing Dead Poets Society-style scenes here — in fact, the film builds from free-flowing lively debates to a tense climax that stems directly from a grave faux pas committed by none other than the teacher himself. Crucially, though, The Class is evenhanded in its treatment of its characters, recognizing both how complex each of these kids is underneath the blunt assessments contained on their report cards and how difficult and thankless the role of a teacher is.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Damien Gomes, Esmeralda Ouertani, Farida Ouchani, François Bégaudeau, Louise Grinberg, Rabah Nait Oufella, Valérie Benguigui

Director: Laurent Cantet

The opening titles of this French procedural drama explicitly tell us that the crime it chronicles will go unsolved, confessing that it’s about one of the approximately 160 murder cases that police don’t crack each year. An ambitious and intriguing opener — suggesting that, in the absence of a clean resolution, the film will nonetheless offer us something equally compelling, as Zodiac does. 

In following the investigation of the brutal murder of 21-year-old Clara (Lula Cotton-Frapier) — for which the police interrogate various of her exes, all misogynistic potential murderers in their own ways — the film seeks to explore the society-wide “problem between men and women” that has given the police its surplus of suspects. Alas, it’s much more interested in the psychological impact cold cases have on policemen like frustrated captain Yohan (Bastien Bouillon). There’s something deeply ironic about making a movie about the systemic dehumanization of women just to center male perspectives, especially when their only insight into the epidemic of toxic masculinity is Yohan’s clunky “We can’t find the murderer because all men killed Clara.” The film’s treatment of the victim herself — incurious and downright gratuitous in the depiction of her murder — cements it as a shallow, un-self-aware, and failed attempt to reckon with a subject that deserved its full focus.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Anouk Grinberg, Bastien Bouillon, Bouli Lanners, Camille Rutherford, Charline Paul, David Murgia, Johann Dionnet, Jules Porier, Julien Frison, Lula Cotton-Frapier, Marc Bodnar, Matthieu Rozé, Mouna Soualem, Nicolas Jouhet, Paul Jeanson, Pauline Serieys, Pierre Lottin, Théo Cholbi, Thibaut Évrard

Director: Dominik Moll