Things to Come
Isabelle Huppert stars as a philosophy professor going through a crisis in the new work from Eden director Mia Hansen-Løve
“I’m lucky to be fulfilled intellectually; that’s reason enough to be happy,” claims Isabelle Huppert’s Nathalie, a Parisienne philosophy professor, when she learns that her husband is leaving her in Mia Hansen-Løve's new film, Things to Come. In the same gently exploratory and, at times, meandering style that the director has developed in previous work, the film goes about putting that statement to the test with deeply felt humanity. Where her last film, Eden – a portrait of a young EDM DJ in 90s Paris – sometimes fell prey to its protagonist’s own listlessness, Huppert is far too magnetic a performer to allow anything similar to happen here.
Nathalie suffers from many of the same concerns as those that inhabited Hansen-Løve’s recent films about youth, but her experience is the more fascinating given that she has been cut loose from a previously solid port and is now all at sea. Her husband is leaving, her publishers are looking to revamp their slate of philosophical textbooks and, perhaps most importantly, her young protégé (Roman Kolinka) has grown into his own man. Huppert is tremendous at conveying the solace that Nathalie finds in philosophy and her unsure footing when even that is suddenly a symbol of mild middle-class hypocrisy and a life examined more than lived.
Hansen-Løve’s unobtrusive and novelistic approach doesn’t see Nathalie embark on a spiral of loneliness or an arc of self-discovery, but a tide of breakthroughs and setbacks punctuated by grace and grief. The lingering and familiar enigma as the credits role is the uncertainty of what lies ahead, and watching a character coming to terms with a path very different to the one previously laid out before them. [Ben Nicholson]