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To Be and to Have
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by Elaine Perrone

"School Days of Heaven."
4 stars

SCREENED AT SEATTLE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2003: To Be and To Have (Ętre et avoir) is a lovely, gentle portrait of a remarkable teacher, Georges Lopez, and his delightful pupils, ranging in age from 4 to 12, who take lessons from him in a one-room elementary schoolhouse in a small French farming community.

The son of impoverished farmers, Lopez was strongly encouraged by his own father to not follow in his parents' footsteps, but to make a better life for himself. Having done so, he has made it his mission to provide the same opportunity to children who might not otherwise have any chances to break free of their repressive, and at times abusive, environment.

In over 20 years of teaching students, Lopez takes seriously what he considers to be his responsibility to prepare them for the realities of adulthood. Thus, his lessons involve not just the rudiments of reading, writing, and arithmetic, but the importance of treating each other with respect and resolving conflicts amicably, and the joy of living playfully.

The result is a quiet film but with many wonderful moments shining through: The patience of a teacher guiding tiny hands in their first attempts at cursive; two little people struggling with a photocopier; the sensitive Lopez calming a frightened boy through a discussion about his father's cancer; a feisty little person whose hands are covered in finger paint; and children tobogganing through the snow.

Director Nicholas Philibert and his team of cinematographers have stunningly captured, in wonderfully composed longshots, the beauty of the French countryside in all four seasons, but what mostly shines through is the love of this teacher for his work, and the mutual respect, admiration, and affection between him and his students. When he announces his retirement, it's hard to determine who is the more bereft -- he or the children.

As goodbyes are said, hugs and kisses on cheeks bestowed, it's obvious that lives have been enriched all around.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8189&reviewer=376
originally posted: 07/29/04 14:37:22
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/30/11 brian Nice but slo-o-o-o-w. I watched it in the morning and it still put me to sleep. 2 stars
11/25/06 Jason of Essex Tugging at our own memories are the honestly depicted children in a cinematic masterpiece. 5 stars
9/12/06 Bitchflaps Compassionate, sad and funny. Outstanding. 5 stars
3/06/06 Annie G Buy this movie for every teacher you know! 5 stars
11/06/03 Cameron Slick Poignant and entertaining look on single room schools in Frane 4 stars
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  DVD: 19-Oct-2004


  29-Apr-2004 (G)

Directed by
  Nicolas Philibert

Written by

  Georges Lopez

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