The latest film from the director of Sunday in the Country and Life and Nothing But, It All Starts Today was one of the most impressive new works on offer at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, where it won the International Critics’ Prize and the Ecumenical Jury Prize. It’s been described as Bertrand Tavernier’s first major picture since his 1996 epic Capitaine Conan, and is certainly a triumphant return to form.
The film takes place in Hernaing, near Valenciennes in the Germinal territory of northern Franceoa town where the formerly prosperous mining industry has given way to unemployment and social deprivation. Central character Daniel (Philippe Torreton) is the head teacher of a nursery school, struggling to motivate himself and his staff in the face of bureaucratic apathy and pervading despair. The crunch comes one evening when a mother arrives to collect her daughter and keels over drunk in the playground. From now on, Daniel determines to adopt a more radical and aggressive approach in ensuring the welfare of the children in his care.
The screenplay was co-written by the director, his daughter Tiffany Tavernier, and his son-in-law, Dominique Sampiero, on whose experiences the film is partly based. This closeness to home lends It All Happens Today a clear-sighted, unsentimental approach which doesn’t have to strain to win credibility or engage emotions. The subject matter is equally well served by Tavernier’s subtle but sure directorial control, and by the fine ensemble cast, comprising both professionals and non-professionals. A hugely satisfying movie: feel-hope rather than feel-good.