Sheila was wrong. School is not over. French cinema packs its bags. Thomas Lilti leaves the hospital environment for National Education. This reconversion was successful for him. In the title, A serious profession, we must especially remember the word “profession”. Lilti is one of the rare directors to show people working. This changes us from these dilettante characters whose main activity consists of reading restaurant menus or making telephone calls (at the peak of the action, they light a cigarette).
So here we are in a middle school in the suburbs. The trick was to choose an establishment without major problems. It's back to school. Vincent Lacoste, with his eternal rookie face, arrives to replace a mathematics teacher. He is taken for an intern. In the classroom, things start off badly: the window doesn't close. This detail alone sums up the situation. There is always a window that does not close, and we teach our class anyway. System D rules. Colleagues welcome the new employee with kindness tinged with irony.
François Cluzet, who teaches French in the next room, is disillusioned as this is not allowed. This actor is so original and gifted that he could recite Annie Ernaux as if it were something unpublished by Wodehouse. His son disappointed him. A curly teenager can't read Zola's L'Assommoir. It's not what you think: he prefers Romain Gary and La Promesse de l'aube.
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The film is filled with these falsely innocuous notes, these little true facts that Stendhal spoke about. In the canteen, William Lebghil always asks if there are fries. Are they served on Tuesday or Thursday? At the table, all bets are off. Adèle Exarchopoulos hopes for a transfer soon. Louise Bourgoin, serious as anything with her very English and Continent glasses, loses her temper in natural sciences class. Without insisting, the director offers his cast snippets of private life. This is generally shaky. We must make do.
As for the students, they are relaxed and insolent. It's called youth. One of them risks the disciplinary council. Case of conscience. Will this ruin his future? The principal walks on eggshells. No waves, please. The farewell drinks end with joy and emotion. There are the RER journeys, the salaries which are always missing a zero, a slap gone too quickly. And, surprise, not a day of strike.
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Lilti touches it just right, doesn’t add to it, avoids clichés. Vincent Lacoste is attacked at home. Parents get involved. Doubts are piling up. They are erased by pulling on a joint. Come on, it's allowed. Nobody will know. Cluzet tells a joke about Francis Cabrel. That's life. It's there, not so simple, never boring. With A serious profession, even the dunces would be ready to sign for a school year. Lilti would obtain an excellence prize. Gabriel Attal would benefit from organizing a screening in his ministry.