Generally the first exposure to foreign film for a British child is in a French lesson towards the end of term. Over the last decade or so, 2004’s The Chorus and the 2008 Palme d’Or winner The Class have been perennial favourites for teachers, funny and accessible studies of impatient students. La Mélodie will almost certainly be joining this very particular cinematic trend, a big-hearted and hilarious ode to the value of learning, teaching, and music.
Violinist Simon Daoud (Kad Merad) joins up as a music instructor at an inner-city Paris school to make some money between his tours. Inducted into the world by respected teacher Farid Brahimi (Samir Guesmi), it’s not long before he’s facing the expected trials and tribulations of disobedient kids that we’ve seen countless times. Rachid Hami’s film is pure formula, from Simon’s almost giving up on the class to his relationship with the family of gifted student Arnold (Alfred Renely), but it’s all just so nice that the familiarity doesn’t matter.
The kids are exceptionally likable, even as they go out of their way to irritate as many people as possible, and a good-natured insult fight at a pizza party is one of 2017’s funniest set-pieces. It’s really brilliant writing, finding the voices of the children and crafting believably off the cuff barbs slung between friends. Having such a likable cast also lessens the importance of the lack of originality. You know from the start exactly where the film is going, but the joy is in getting there, and watching the class’s musical progress is immensely satisfying.
If you’re feeling remotely cynical, La Mélodie is probably not the film for you (unless you’re looking for a cure for that pessimism), but a willingness to embrace its clichés will earn you a soothingly lovely cinematic experience.
CAST: Kad Merad, Samir Guesmi, Alfred Renely
DIRECTOR: Rachid Hami
WRITERS: Rachid Hami, Guy Laurent, Valérie Zenatti (screenplay); Guy Laurent (original idea)
SYNOPSIS: Simon is a distinguished, but disillusioned violinist. Arnold is a shy student who is fascinated with the violin and discovers that he has a real talent for it. With Arnold’s raw talent and the joyous energy of his class, Simon gradually rediscovers the joys of music.