It All Starts Today

It All Starts Today

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Human damage is right there in the classroom. "Life goes on," Daniel (Philippe Torreton), head teacher of an infants' school in a deprived area of northern France, says. "And you've done nothing." Meaning himself.

The son of a miner, he knows how unemployment can eat into a community's soul. He hates feeling powerless. He hates the social services, too. He shouts at them and makes himself unpopular. Those in authority send inspectors to silence him with reports.

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Some children haven't eaten, some mothers live in filth and debt, some parents don't get up in the morning because there is nothing to get up for, most children "don't know what working means". They don't understand how to communicate, how to express emotion, how to trust. "We have to teach them everything," Daniel says. It is not enough. Poverty kills. Bertrand Tavernier keeps it personal. Daniel's passion is debilitated by doubt. His sculptress girlfriend (Maria Pitarresi), who cannot be blamed for being too beautiful, provides moral support ("You haven't the right to give up"). The kids are unselfconscious and natural.

This is a serious subject, expertly handled by Tavernier, that pleads for communities to look after their own. The film does not sentimentalise, neither does it whine. It roars.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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The effect of unemployment on France's children as seen through the eyes of a teacher.
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Director: Bertrand Tavernier

Writer: Bertrand Tavernier, Dominique Sampiero

Starring: Philippe Torreton, Maria Pitarresi, Nadia Kaci, Franoise Bette, Christine Citti, Christina Crevillén, Véronique Ataly

Year: 1999

Runtime: 117 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: France

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