Subtle is the key word in describing Things to Come; a sometimes tortuously slow-moving slice-of-life drama.
Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert) teaches philosophy at a college in Paris. She’s passionate about her work and particularly enjoys passing on the pleasure of thinking to the next generation. Married with two grown up children, she devotes her spare time to the books she publishes as a sideline, to former students like Fabien (Roman Kolinka), that have become friends, and to a very needy mother (Edith Scob). One day Nathalie’s husband Heinz (André Marcon) announces he is leaving her for another woman, one of a series of events that will upend Nathalie’s world.
Writer/director Mia Hansen-Løve in describing the principal character says she partly comes from the couple her parents formed – their intellectual bond and her mother’s energy. “Afterwards, there is the brutality of separation and the difficulty for many women over a certain age to escape a form of solitude, which I, like everybody else, have had occasion to observe.”
Clearly Ms Hansen-Løve is a deep thinker and reflects upon life’s truth and the heartache that can bring. In fact, Things to Come is a step into the life of an everyman, or, in this case, an every woman. Marriages break up, people lose their jobs and their parents die. You can reasonably argue that nothing outside the run of the mill happens in this movie and when the so-called dramatic high points come they are dealt with in a matter of fact style, without signposting or fanfare. Imagine following someone’s fine, but rather mundane, life – there you have it.
That takes nothing away from yet another stellar – in this case downbeat – performance by Huppert. Her credibility as the jilted wife is without question and this is really about how her character moves on with her life. The threads of philosophy – I call it philosophical claptrap – and politics are heavily woven throughout this tale and, quite frankly, I found that not only heavy going, but tiresome (the words ‘dull’ and ‘boring’ come to mind).
At the end of the best part of two hours I – and a number of others – walked away thinking ‘is that all there is?’. The answer – unfortunately so. I was waiting for more, but it never came. Notwithstanding the beautiful cinematography by Denis Lenoir in some divine settings, I found Things to Come too subtle for my liking. I dare say others will appreciate Hansen-Løve’s handling of the material far more than I did. Rated M, Things to Come scores a 5 out of 10.
Director: Mia Hansen-Løve
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Roman Kolinka, André Marcon
Release Date: 27 April 2017
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television