Germain (Ernst Umhauer) is a secondary school English teacher who has just started teaching class 4C. They are the usual bunch of students and what he describes as ‘the worst yet’. There is one among them that stands out however, Claude (Ernst Umhauer) shows promise even though the subject matter of his first essay is a little unusual; the life and family of one of his fellow students. Rather that berate his student, Germain gives him a good grade and starts to encourage him, and so gets drawn into the world of the student’s tale, in which Claude sets out to become part of what he sees as the perfect family!
This is a rich and layered film that draws you into the world of the student’s saga. One of the more fascinating aspects of the film is that you’re never quite sure how much of what occurs in the student’s homework is real and how much has been created for the benefit of the reader, his teacher. The student is clearly unreliable and alters segments of the plot, depending on how the teacher reacts.
Kirstin Scott Thomas plays the part of Germain’s wife Jeanne. She works in a gallery that is struggling and with the death of its owner, she fears for her career. Really, this is nothing more than a back story and not drawn out in any depth. Her main role in the film is to force her husband on, and as she reads and enquires about all aspects of Claude’s essays.
François Ozon is the director of this film, who previously directed such films as 8 women and the Swimming Pool. The movie is based on a play by Juan Mayorga and with the screenplay written by Juan and Francois.
While the subject matter does not sound that complex, the web the writers spin is fascinating to watch and it is done with a lot of humour and creativity. The film delves into morals and what lengths a teacher would go to, to allow a student to create something that could be great! While the ending to the film is slightly disappointing, and what could have been a great movie mearly fizzles out, it is still an interesting and original piece that should be seen!