To Be and to Have (2002)

Genres - Culture & Society  |   Sub-Genres - Sociology, Biography  |   Release Date - Sep 19, 2003 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 105 min.  |   Countries - France  |   MPAA Rating - NR
  • AllMovie Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

Share on

Review by Josh Ralske

To Be and to Have is a sweetly bucolic documentary about a one-room schoolhouse in the French countryside. Filmmaker Nicolas Philibert (In the Land of the Deaf) examines the interactions of a teacher and pupils from a reasonably detached point-of-view. Some of the children are more aware of the camera than others, and Philibert does depart briefly from his unobtrusive perspective for a brief interview with the teacher, Georges Lopez, who discusses his background and his impending retirement. The end result is a surprisingly moving study, not just of a single teacher and his charges, but also of the process of learning. The children are adorable, for the most part, but there's genuine trauma in their routine social interactions, as when two of the older boys -- quiet, easily embarrassed Olivier and his more self-assured peer, Julien -- are called in by Lopez to discuss their deteriorating friendship. The cute little boy who gets the most screen time, Jojo, is seen struggling with social interaction, with basic hygiene, and with the concept of infinity. While the issues of the film are largely universal, Philibert also captures the unique challenges faced by Lopez in simultaneously teaching kids of many different ages. This challenge is summed up nicely in a shot of Lopez in a rainstorm, with two umbrellas, trying to cover an energetic boy and a younger girl who's just toddling along.