Mia Hansen-LøveFrance / Germany100 minutes2016ColourFrench German
French writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve (Eden, Goodbye First Love) directs the great Isabelle Huppert in this delicate and affecting tale about a middle-aged professor whose carefully structured life is thrown into disarray when her husband leaves her for another woman, and who finds an unlikely new companion in a former student and radical young communist.
An ascendant director of French cinema has paired up with one of the world's most celebrated actors, and the results do not disappoint. Isabelle Huppert stars in Mia Hansen-Løve's fifth feature, Things to Come, which offers up the "radical" notion that women's lives don't end after 40.
After Eden, Hansen-Løve turns from the youthful world of throbbing bass and late-night clubbing to the decidedly quieter routine of a professor. Nathalie (Huppert, a featured guest in this year's ICW programme and also appearing in Souvenir and Elle) is a dedicated and demanding teacher, wife, and mother. She runs her relationships with the same rigour she brings to her study of philosophy. But when Nathalie's husband announces that he's leaving her for another woman, the meticulously crafted structures on which her existence is founded begin to crumble. Truly on her own for the first time, except for a less-than-grateful cat, Natalie is daunted by this new world — until she finds an unlikely friend in a former student, the radical young communist Fabien (Roman Kolinka).
In the hands of another director and actor, this plot could easily have fallen prey to condescension, a lazy mockery of "women of a certain age." Instead, the film is infused with a generous patience. Huppert brings a quiet strength to the character of Nathalie, and Hansen-Løve films her tale with elegance and grace.
Things to Come is heartbreaking but never sentimental, wry but never ironic. It shows that, even though life may never get any easier, it nevertheless offers ceaseless opportunities for growth.