Review: Things to Come / L’avenir

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DIRWRI: Mia Hansen-Løve • PRO: Charles Gillibert •  DOP: Denis Lenoir • ED: Marion Monnier • DES: Anna Falguères • CAST: Isabelle Huppert, André Marcon, Roman Kolinka

 

There’s something so beautifully captivating about this window into the world of a middle-aged French woman, embarking on life’s changes even as they are imposed upon her.  The storytelling is subtle, the acting is superb, and the direction has the lightest of touches – meaning that conversation and exposition unfolds naturally and without fanfare.  We are left, then, with a portrait of the life of Nathalie Chazeaux (Isabelle Huppert) as her marriage ends, her children leave home and her life changes irrevocably.

What to say about Isabelle Huppert that hasn’t been said, and said again?  In her deservedly decorated career, she has been a consistently outstanding actor who brings realism and brutal honesty to every role she takes on.  Nathalie is no exception – a philosophy teacher who leads the examined life as much as she teaches it, yet beneath her intellectually vigorous nose her husband, Heinz, has been cheating with a younger woman.  Heinz (the wonderfully brusque André Marcon) slowly withdraws from the family home, leaving in incremental stages as they adjust to a marriage that has moved from a meeting of minds to a separation of books.  Nathalie’s free time is often taken up with caring for her mother, Yvette (Edith Scob), a manically eccentric ex-model and actress who clings to her glory years like Norma Desmond – lamenting the world as it loses interest in her.  Nathalie is a respected teacher of philosophy, and has several books published on the subject – including textbooks for schools and fellow educators, though the publishers feel her approach might be too old-fashioned for today’s market.  She has also enjoyed excellent relationships with her pupils, who have appreciated her interactive teaching technique – perhaps in contrast to her husband’s more gruff approach to the education of youth.

One of her past students, Fabien (Roman Kolinka), reappears in her life at a time when she most needs a friend, and becomes a confidante in the changing landscape of her identity.  A contributor to her books on philosophy, Fabien is embracing anarchy, and talks with a slightly-dismissive Nathalie about the ways the world can change – listening to music she once listened to, and arguing old ideas as though they are new.  And so, with both of her children grown and flown, Nathalie must stitch together a new world for herself from the various pieces of wife, daughter, mother and teacher she has accrued.

There are comic moments throughout Things to Come, but this is more an honest tale of real life, told from the inside out.  Nathalie is a very regular person, who reacts logically and breathtakingly normally to life’s hurdles.  It’s a well written piece that still gives the actors licence to meander and flow in a very natural way, making the conversations border on the meaningless while still being heaped with metaphor.  Written and directed by Mia Hansen-Love, winning the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival, her love for the art of thinking and self-exploration shines through this movie.  The daughter of philosophy professors, her films have garnered much praise and plaudits for their honesty and depth of feeling.  Here, she gives us another brushstroke from which we glimpse an entire life – Nathalie is a very real creation, with desires and failings and everything in between.

A genuinely lovely film, with honest storytelling and real profundity, Things to Come is a snapshot of real life, and a worthy vehicle for Huppert’s superb abilities.

Sarah Griffin

101 minutes
12A (See IFCO for details)

Things to Come is released 2nd September 2016

Things to Come – Official Website

 

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