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It All Starts Today

Posted by martinteller on June 1, 2013

In a town in the north of France, Daniel Lefebrve (Philippe Torreton) is the director of a kindergarten.  The town is in bad shape, suffering a 34% unemployment rate with the local mining industry shut down.  Daniel has an uphill battle every day.  Battles against parents who are apathetic, neglectful and drunk.  Battles against an economy where parents can’t afford the meager cost of school lunches or dues.  Battles against a social services system that’s swamped and understaffed.  Battles against red tape to get families the help they need, and bureaucracies that don’t communicate with each other.  Battles against vandals who trash the school.  Battles against an administration that provides no solutions.  Even battles with Rémi (Lambert Marchal), the resentful son of his sculptor girlfriend Valeria (Maria Pitarresi).

“It all starts today” has the ring of a call to arms, and Bernard Tavernier does indeed seem to be demanding some form of action, rallying the troops.  Through the mouthpiece of Daniel, he lays bare a litany of problems facing the educational system in impoverished communities.  Daniel is constantly in motion, putting out one fire after another.  The handheld camera matches his drive and intensity.  There are no easy answers.  Daniel’s job is one of daily frustration… and sometimes tragedy.

The film somehow manages to avoid feeling too heavy-handed or didactic.  Torreton does occasionally get on his soapbox and lay out a bunch of facts and figures, but the authenticity of his performance makes his passion natural.  But perhaps Daniel is portrayed as too much of a superhero.  He slaps Rémi, once, and immediately feels awful about it.  That’s about the extent of his character flaws.  If it weren’t for the dour realities on display, the film could easily turn into one of those awful sentimental “inspirational educator” movies like Mr. Holland’s Opus.  I also thought the Valeria character was a little too perfect.

Perhaps this film, sadly, isn’t telling us anything we don’t already know.  But Tavernier is passionately trying to raise awareness of a host of social problems.  In the process, he crafted a compelling story with characters worth rooting for… a society worth fighting for.  Rating: Good (80)


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