Things to Come (2016)
Nathalie Chazeaux (Isabelle Huppert) is a married philosophy teacher who is awakened in the early-morning hours by the ringing of the phone. She fumbles for the phone, answering to discover it’s her elderly mother who is having a panic attack. The mother is convinced that she is dying. Nathalie reassures her that she isn’t and that she will see her later in the day. We see her outside her school having to make her way through some students who are protesting the latest injustice. Finally, inside the school, she runs into an old student of hers, Fabien (Roman Kolinka), who is being published by the same company that publishes Nathalie’s works. They make plans to meet up later. Nathalie goes back outside and rescues some of her students from the protesters, herds them back to the classroom and begins teaching her class. We can tell that the students might not always like the subject, they do like their teacher.
We next see her meet with her publishers who are determined to go in a different direction declaring her work is stale. This makes Nathalie frustrated as she thinks her work still stands up. She leaves in a huff with nothing decided. Nathalie heads to her mom’s apartment to check on her. She finds her mom asleep in the middle of the day. Waking her up, Nathalie discovers her mother (Edith Scob) has bought new clothing she can’t afford. Her mother goes on about an audition for a part in a play that in reality she doesn’t have. Nathalie spends some time with her mother looking at old pictures and reminiscing about the past.
Nathalie heads for home, where she finds her husband and two grown children sitting at the kitchen table ready for a meal. As they discuss the day’s events around a simple meal, it’s evident that most of their conversations are talking about philosophy. It’s very clear that Nathalie’s husband Heinz (Andre Marcon), is more interested in his children’s opinions that those of his wife. Their meal is interrupted by Fabien, who has brought Nathalie a couple of books with the pretense of getting information on whether his book is being published. Fabian soon leaves, and Nathalie and Heinz very quickly get into a fight that comes out of nowhere, with Heinz insisting that Fabien only comes around when he needs something and gets his way by flirting with Nathalie. Is the fight just an aberration or is it foreshadowing trouble for Nathalie that is coming down the line?
Right up front I have to say that I have never been a big fan of philosophy, finding it rather tedious, so there were a few parts of this film that I kind of tuned out. Luckily for me, those parts I didn’t like are more than made up for by the mesmerizing performance of Isabelle Huppert, who is in every scene in this film. Huppert is brilliant in scene after scene as Nathalie’s life slowly falls apart at the seams. She experiences almost every emotion in this movie, and it’s her skill as an actress that she can move so quickly from being calm and composed to someone who is full of fury in a matter of seconds. It’s the quiet, introspective moments in the film where Huppert shines, giving us time to absorb what she is going through and seeing how she deals with all the life is throwing at her. It’s a credit to Huppert that we like Nathalie so much and are rooting for her because, under the actions of a lesser actress, the character could come off spiteful and stubborn.
Give credit to writer/director Mia Hansen-Love for creating such a rich journey for Huppert to go on. Hansen-Love has created a world that provides us with a slow, complicated ride, following Nathalie as she tries to find a new place in the world. She gives us plenty to experience, whether it’s the high-energy world of Nathalie’s students, where their protests seem always to be life-and-death matters, to the quiet countryside where Nathalie goes to visit Fabien and his band of bohemians, who sit around the fire and discuss politics. Hansen-Love uses these contrasting worlds to give us insight into Nathalie’s psyche. The film is perfectly paced, letting us slowly feel Nathalie’s struggles and eventually, her triumphs. The cinematography by Denis Lenoir, matches the tone of the film, contrasting the harsh, fluorescent world of the school with the grasslands near Fabian’s country home, where the meadows seem to go on forever.
Things to Come is an intelligent look at a woman hit with many obstacles as she works to find her way in an ever-changing world. The film explores how we handle those barriers and the changes that it forces on us, for better or worse. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
The film is playing exclusively at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema
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