(BB, L) A moral glimpse into the life of a teacher in France, who enforces a positive moral code and biblical upbringing of children; one light obscenity and one light profanity, both by a farmer in the first 45 seconds of the film; and, nothing else objectionable.

GENRE: Documentary



More Detail:

TO BE AND TO HAVE is a French documentary about a one-room schoolhouse in the countryside.

After some looks at the gloomy but lush French countryside, the audience is taken into the classroom where much of TO BE AND TO HAVE takes place. Inside, two turtles creep under desks and around chairs. The camera is perfectly still, content to watch them crawl. This scene sets the pace for the rest of the movie, as TO BE AND TO HAVE is more about watching than telling.

Director and editor Nicolas Philibert captures several months in the life of Georges Lopez, a teacher of 35 years who runs a one-room schoolhouse in rural France. The movie unfolds slowly, as Lopez interacts with the elementary aged children, teaching them to form letters and count. Their banter is endearing, and the audience will enjoy it at the same rate they enjoy the banter of six- or seven-year-olds in real life. In this sense, TO BE AND TO HAVE sometimes resembles a series of home movies skillfully edited together.

Out of these impressionistic scenes – viewers see Lopez instructing the students, disciplining them, observing them work – a picture forms of a man whose sole concern seems to be building up young lives. He stresses personal responsibility, making one boy miss recess to fulfill a promise and finish a project. Even though the action is stern, Lopez talks to the boy in an edifying manner, never being reproachful or discouraging. He is also a friend to the children, coaxing one student out of her thick shell and comforting another whose father is recovering from cancer. Although he is older than the students and firmly in control of the classroom, he remains approachable and a reliable role model.

The movie meanders for the first three-fourths, lazily recording the dialogue between teacher and students, teacher and parents, parents and students, but becomes a bit more engaging in the final quarter. The statements that were implied earlier, about the teacher’s dedication and his intense love for children and specifically the children he teaches, are made more explicitly through a brief interview and some footage of Lopez speaking with some students individually. In some respects, this is too-little-too-late, as the pace feels very slow in the previous scenes and makes the movie feel longer than its 104 minutes. However, true drama emerges in these scenes, and it is in the final minutes that the film proves itself warm and winning. Teacher Georges Lopez gets through giving and is an inspiration for audiences.

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SUMMARY: TO BE AND TO HAVE is a French documentary about a one-room schoolhouse in the countryside, where the teacher is stern but loving with his students, as he attempts to craft his students into responsible, thoughtful people. There is barely any objectionable language, which makes the film acceptable to most audiences, but only a specific few would be interested in the slow-moving character study.

Quality: - Content: +3
Quality: - Content: +1