"What We Have" wants to be a really good film. But it isn't because too much is revealed beforehand, regarding Maurice's flashbacks/dreams to his childhood. After the first one, the film assumes we don't get it. After a few more, we're beat over the head about why this lonely, French ex-patriate moved to northern Canada: to escape his past. Maurice is an actor in a community theater group, and he gives French lessons on the side. He also swims in a pool where several lanes are reserved for team training. Alan, a fifteen year old boy swimmer is being bullied by some of his team. He is also taking French lessons from Maurice, with a homophobic grandmother lurking in he background. It becomes obvious that Alan has a crush on Maurice. Maurice senses this, and to his credit, he doesn't manipulate the kid. Neither does he attempt to deal with his own attraction to the boy. He just files it away in his brain, where so many other secrets are stored. All of this and flashbacks too, yet Maurice keeps his cold composure to the few people who know him. Granny is not fooled. Her main concern is that Maurice is going to break Alan's heart. When all is said and done, we're not really surprised, because clues have been running all through the film, and they're not exactly subtle. It begins to appear that Maurice is not really as traumatized as it seems. He has identified himself as he is in the flashbacks/dreams, but when the opportunity arises when he can be that person, he doesn't. It's very difficult to feel one way or the other about him because he never tells us anything we don't already know.
The acting is very good, mostly low-key. The script is murky and presumptive, in that it doesn't give us the credit for being able to figure out, early on, what the big "secret" is. The photography does a good job of showing us what northern Canada is like, and why most of us probably wouldn't want to move there. It's a good contrast because it has scenes of wide open expanses under gloomy clouds, with very little distraction from people, cars or anything else. (Maurice has chosen to live in this vast landscape, yet his mind remains locked in a tiny space in his head.)
"What We Have" is not the most terrible film ever made, but for some reason the director doesn't always seem present. He also plays Maurice, so maybe he ought to have decided bewteen acting in the film or directing it, but not both. It doesn't work, and we feel it. Things move along enough so that boredom doesn't set in, but this could have been a better film had it been a little braver.