Things to Come (L’Avenir)
A philosophy teacher soldiers through the death of her mother, getting fired from her job, and dealing with a husband who is cheating on her.
Mia Hansen-Løve’s follow-up to last year’s dizzying and passionate ‘Eden’ is a one woman show from Isabelle Huppert, in a strong character study of a woman whose life appears to be spiralling out of control as a result of several personal crises and setbacks. I mention Huppert at this early stage, because without her, ‘Things to Come’ could have been an insufferable slog, but somehow Huppert finds the inner strength within her character to make us care about her journey and her plight.
Huppert plays Nathalie, a philosophy teacher, married with a couple of kids, at a key stage in her life as she approaches retirement age. Over the course of a year she has to overcome problems with her marriage, issues with her mother’s health and the end of her publishing career, and the main focus of ‘Things to Come’ is in how she approaches and overcomes these challenges. There are overarching themes about society and aging, and how people’s attitudes to politics and societal situations change over time and at different stages of life, shown through Nathalie’s past as a communist and her present where protesters against the government are a nuisance to her desire to teach her class. ‘Things to Come’ is a film that juggles many themes and events and Huppert expertly holds everything together with a moving and impassioned performance.
I found ‘Things to Come’ a challenge at times and fully engaging in Nathalie’s situation didn’t come as easily to me as I’m sure Hansen-Løve intended. Huppert’s performance and the strong direction try to tie Nathalie’s situation into the overarching themes of the piece, but that isn’t always entirely successful and the balance between scope and intimacy feels somewhat off at times. Despite their best efforts, I found Nathalie’s situation difficult to fully relate to and empathise with, and whilst part of this is because I find my personal situation significantly removed from Nathalie’s, it is also a measure of a film’s success to make characters so far removed from you personally relatable, and ‘Things to Come’ fails in that regard.
Directed By: Mia Hansen-Løve
Starring: Isabelle Huppert, André Marcon, Roman Kolinka, Édith Scob, Sarah Le Picard, Solal Forte and Élise Lhomeau