Directed by: Mia Hansen-Løve
Starring: Isabelle Huppert, André Marcon, Roman Kolinka
“A great French writer wanted to rest here, to hear only the sea and wind”. While the rhythmic samples of French-electro duo Daft Punk helped form the beating heart of Mia Hansen-Løve’s previous picture Eden – an epic exploration of the 90s Parisian club culture – her latest film, the beautifully bijou cinematic trinket Things To Come, instead finds its acoustic sweet spot in the simple diegetic sounds of the world around us. Here music is used with a deliberate sparseness, sourced only when the understated pathos of Hansen-Løve’s script truly necessitates a cathartic crescendo.
When we first meet Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert), the stormy winds of change approaching her life can already be heard, reverberating through the choppy waters of the French coastline. However, Nathalie herself will not feel the full force of this gale for several years to come. For now, the sun shines bright in her life as she surveys the serene beauty of Brittany’s shores, accompanied by her husband Heinz (André Marcon), and their two children Chloé (Sarah Le Picard) and Johann (Solal Forte).Flash forward to the present day, and indelible clouds of crisis have slowly begun to form; though curiously, and perhaps crucially, the skies remain clear. Nathalie has become accustomed to the routine of her life: she teaches philosophy at a local Parisian grammar school – a job that she adores – whilst dividing her spare time between her family, and a number of close friends – the most notable being Fabien, a freethinking former student (Roman Kolinka). Living in her late fifties and comfortable with her existence, the future is no longer something that Nathalie feels compelled to regularly consider… Until, that is, the day she returns home to the news that Heinz has met another woman, and now plans to divorce her.
Things To Come may mark a departure from the topic of youth, the foundation for much of Hansen-Løve’s oeuvre in the past, but once more this is a fiction that thrives in its ability to honestly contemplate the passing of time with a tone that shifts seamlessly between the euphoric and melancholic; as has previously been the case, Hansen-Løve’s direction shares the same dynamic eclecticism we see in the work of her husband and former mentor Olivier Assayas. There’s plenty that’s personal within her script – the narrative is loosely inspired by the life of Mia Hansen-Løve’s mother, Laurence – but the film is never sentimentally overcome by the sadness that swells within the story.As Nathalie’s personal traumas continue to mount – Edith Scob has a ball as her cantankerous and coquettish mother Yvette, whose grasp of reality deteriorates by the day – her loneliness and sorrow radiate through the screen. Yet Hansen-Løve isn’t an artist who’s willing to simply submit to such pain with a pessimistic attitude, her approach is more refreshingly optimistic. As Nathalie’s isolation intensifies, she turns to philosophy – the true love of her life – not for guidance, but support; pausing not only to question how she handles the freedom she’s now faced with, but also to indulge more in the joys, and appreciate the beauty of everyday life.
Appearing in almost every shot and commanding the film from the start, it’s Isabelle Huppert who ultimately carries our hearts; her performance realised with a rich intelligence and sharp wit, but contrasted with flickers of fear and apprehension that ensure Nathalie’s is not another female character to be merely defined by a strong appearance. She’s commanding company, someone we can and want to invest our faith in – Olivier Goinard’s subtle sound mix combining with Denis Lenoir’s concentrated cinematography to communicate a touching and tranquil connection between spectator and subject.
As Nathalie confronts her uncertain future, she does so with a hopeful fortitude that emanates within us all; and echoing through the wind is the voice of Hansen-Løve herself, encouraging you to consider your own.