Things to Come (M)
Rating: 4 / 5
“After 40, women are fit for the trash heap.” This isn’t uttered by some young upstart, but by our over-40, recently separated, yet luminous heroine, Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert), in Things to Come.
This is filmmaker Mia Hansen-Love’s way of showing her hand. Written and directed by Hansen-Love, Things to Come (L’Avenir) is clearly a vehicle made for Huppert who, at 63, still commands the screen.
But the film is much more than a barely disguised love letter to a French icon. With its fixation on philosophy and, in particular, existentialism, Things to Come is the antithesis to our social-media fuelled modern preoccupation with youth and immediacy.
It’s no coincidence, then, that Hubbert plays a professor of philosophy. Nathalie is passionate about getting her students to think for themselves and, at first at least, seems to have achieved that balance between professional and home life, albeit while having to juggle the demands of an aging mother.
But after her adult children fly the nest, Nathalie’s husband Heinz (André Marcon) announces he, too, is leaving her for another woman. When her mother dies soon after, Nathalie suddenly finds herself rudderless.
And when a handsome, and young, former student Fabien (Roman Kolinka) comes back into her life, it seems Nathalie will once again find herself playing a role society has created—as the much older lover—but Nathalie has other ideas.
It’s during a car ride with Fabien to his mountain-side retreat that Nathalie realises that for the first time in her life she is totally free.
Despite the film basically being a litany of difficulties, there’s nothing melancholy or overtly dramatic in Things to Come. Instead, the film treats these hiccups as a part of life (which, of course, they are) and does so intelligently, as you’d expect from a film that asks the big questions.
And while Nathalie is obviously the pivot, she’s not an island, and we are privy to the lives and motivations of those who love her—even if they no longer live with her.
Hansen-Love’s eye is non-judgmental. She may not condone her characters’ actions, but she treats them with the respect they deserve and gives them all room to move and develop.
Life doesn’t always work out the way we plan and it’s what we do in the wake of that reality that’s inherently interesting. For such a young filmmaker to tackle this (she’s only 35), Hansen-Love proves to be one to watch.
And as the fey and dignified Nathalie living her life as closely as possible to her own philosophical leanings, Huppert is one actor you can’t take your eyes off.
Highlight: the intelligent storytelling
Red flag: some coarse language