It’s rare that we get to see a female mid-life crisis movie as thoughtfully executed and restrained as writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve’s THINGS TO COME. I wish in this day and age I didn’t need to point this out, but here we are. The character-driven drama is filled with humanity, authenticity and simplicity.
For all intents and purposes, Nathalie Chazeaux (Isabelle Huppert) has it all together; she’s fulfilled by teaching high-schoolers philosophy. She has two well-behaved kids with hubby/ fellow professor Heinz (André Marcon). And she spends her free time reconnecting with former-students-turned-friends like Fabien (Roman Kolinka), dealing with her bipolar mother (Edith Scob), and publishing philosophy textbooks. However, her world is changing. After her husband leaves her for another woman, her mom passes away and her publishers throw her for a loop with her contract. She’s left unencumbered, drifting, floating free through life, but even that’s evolving too.
Hansen-Løve has a very gentle touch, yet at the same time, makes it perfectly clear what she’s aiming for. Nathalie is a walking dichotomy. She teaches others to think out of the box, challenging and questioning authority, but still has problems adjusting to life’s curveballs. Sometimes, she’s seemingly unaffected – like how she deals with Heinz’s announcement he’s leaving her, taking the blindsiding news in stride. This decision feels organic to the character, and blessedly she doesn’t participate in anything rash. She’s mroe affected by having to give up the family home in Brittany – or maybe framing her grief over the end of the relationship in this way is just the conduit that allows her to mourn the marriage, depending how deep she’s compartmentalized this situation. While this is an interesting facet of her character, it’s not enough to keep the picture going for as long as it does. The main question it posits – what does one do when everything falls apart – isn’t entirely answered with anything but a response showing her character learning to adapt, seizing opportunities for new roles and growth.
Isabelle Huppert and Roman Kolinka in THINGS TO COME. Courtesy of Sundance Selects.
It’s always a pleasure to see Huppert in any film (heck, I’d watch an entire feature out of Huppert hanging out at the craft service table), but having recently seen her take on a strong, meaty part in ELLE, her work here isn’t nearly as impacting for those looking for something a bit more dramatic. That said, if we’re to continue comparing the two films, THINGS TO COME’s cat shenanigans are far more satisfying that ELLE’s, because at least the former cat doesn’t let in a rapist. #JustSayin. And if you’re to indulge my wandering thoughts even further, you’d think Huppert would’ve taken a role in NINE LIVES to make this a feline trifecta, but, le sigh. She didn’t.
THINGS TO COME is just the type of film to take in when you’re in a transitory state in your life – regardless of age. It goes beyond the modern confines and trappings of the genre, reaching for a deeper connection in audience’s hearts.
THINGS TO COME opens on December 2 in New York and Los Angeles.