The Class, or as it was known in France, Entre les murs, (Between the Walls) is certainly no To Sir With Love, nor its host of imitators over the last 40 years who uniformly portray an idealistic young teacher winning over skeptical students with enthusiasm and dedication.
The movie is about a school in Paris, ethnically diverse, but like middle schools everywhere, or at least in the United States, one where learning often gets lost in the battle between teachers and teen hormones. The movie shows it like it is; students are more than a handful; looking for any weakness or diversion to keep from spending time learning. But unlike Sidney Poitier's perfect character in To Sir With Love, this teacher is well-intentioned, but flawed. His students push him beyond what any teacher should be pushed, but he gets in trouble when he reacts with inappropriate language.
This is a must-see movie if you're a middle-school teacher. It was written by a teacher, and is loosely based on a year at his school. It probably should be seen in the company of a teacher. For a non-teacher, it starts a little slowly. I went with The Wife, who teaches English as a Second Language in middle school and she loved it. For myself, about half way through the movie, I leaned over and whispered, "Is the plot going to start pretty soon?"
The movie was nominated (but didn't win) for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film, and has won a host of other awards, including the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival. I left the theater disappointed at the slow pacing and was prepared to give it three stars. But a little lobbying at dinner by The Wife convinced me to give it an extra star for its authenticity. There were no heroes nor villains. That's worth at least a star in the cinema these days.