Things to Come (2016) Blu Ray (Curzon Artificial Eye)
Isabelle Huppert plays Nathalie Chazeaux, a Parisian philosophy lecturer living with her husband Heinz (Andre Marcon), son Johann (Solal Forte) and daughter Chloe (Sarah Le Picard). She also looks after her depressed, attention seeking mother Yvette (Edith Scob) - a model far, far past her prime who lives with her cat Pandora.
One day her offspring find out that Heinz has been seeing another woman. Chloe catches up with him walking in the park and tells him that they haven’t revealed the affair to Nathalie yet - but insist that he choose between one of the two, and quickly. Heinz ends up confessing to his wife and moving out.
While Nathalie attempts to come to terms with the loss of her husband and the suicidal behaviour of her mother, she gains two new central fixtures in her life; her favourite erstwhile student Fabien (Roman Kolinka) - a devotee of radical politics - and Pandora, whom she is saddled with as Yvette is confined to a nursing home.
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While Things To Come’s setup might not seem radically new on paper (it’s another tale about moving on after a breakup with a significant other), the approach - depicted through the behaviour and attitude of its main character - is quite refreshingly different. Nathalie is determined to live by the principals of her philosophy even while the world around her crumbles; not only her marriage and her mother, but also her students striking over plans to raise the retirement age, and her publishers wanting to update the textbooks she has authored with ghastly new front covers. Since philosophy is all about viewing matters in an enlightened manner, her principals dictate that she can’t let the situations get the better of her.
The result is not so much drama as attempted anti-drama, to a degree that, at times, touches on comedy. When Nathalie is given flowers by Heinz in a rather pitiful gesture of apology, she initially bundles them in an Ikea bag and throws them in the bin. However, she then - in a second thought - turns back and retrieves them. Later we see them on her coffee table. When she goes to their seaside home in Brittany to retrieve her belongings there she’s the one unexpectedly telling Heinz to wake up and not live in the past.
It’s not just the incidentals that avoid emotional fireworks. Her relationship with Fabien (much of it taking place in a remote farmhouse with a collective of fellow radicals) hints towards a May-to-December romance but ultimately chooses not to go down such an obvious route; instead it focuses on their intellectual and political compatibilities in a way that lets Nathalie rediscover her own identity when no longer part of a married couple.
The film could have been slight but it works thanks to two things; Isabelle Huppert’s performance and Mia Hansen-Love’s ability to weave peripheral details quite enchantingly into the story. Huppert, as is so often the case, remains magnetic when appearing to do almost nothing, thus making her rooted and rational character incredibly easy to focus on and giving her most extreme actions a sense of deadpan hilarity. Hansen-Love interjects politics, old music, the picturesque (if perpetually overcast) Brittany Coast, an uncooperative jet-black cat and much more into the film in a way where they all add something by colouring the central character’s viewpoint and adding a degree of metatextuality. It’s intelligently thought-out but feels natural and uncontrived.
Although it has enough charm and humour to sweeten the pill, Things To Come might not be to everyone’s taste; it’s a film featuring some rather traumatic life events as viewed through a prism of intellect rather than emotion, and as such may leave some cold. However, it’s well worth a try for lovers of artistic French films and for those after something a bit different.
Runtime: 102 mins
Dir: Mia Hansen-Love
Script: Mia Hansen-Love
Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Andre Marcon, Roman Kolinka, Edith Scob, Sarah Le Picard, Solal Forte
It all looks fabulous. The cinematography by Denis Lenoir is rendered in a crisp and warm manner, and the primary colours almost leap out of the screen without feeling too unnatural.
Very solid, with dialogue, sound effects and the old songs playing over some scenes pitched perfectly.
A satisfying low-key affair given a great audio-visual treatment.