Things To Come

Studio: IFC Films

May 09, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

One of the great myths of adulthood is the belief a person ever reaches a fully formed state. The early years are for finding who we are, and then we know, right? But it’s nonsense, as people and lives changes continually. Mia Hansen-Løve’s fifth film shows one such supposedly set person coming to terms with a series of unexpected changes.

Isabelle Huppert takes the lead role as Nathalie, a philosophy teacher with a settled home life and a job she enjoys. There’s also a difficult mother (Edith Scob) to deal with, constantly demanding attention for ailments that may or may not be real. Nathalie’s life looks glued to this comfortable pattern until it all comes tumbling down; the result of death and infidelity.

Tumble isn’t quite the right word though. Things To Come doesn’t go in for histrionic life-altering moments (this stripped down approach works for the film though is more disappointing for a Blu-Ray release offering no more than the theatrical trailer as an extra). Nathalie bears repeated blows with stoic self-control, only occasionally allowing herself to lapse. When her husband (André Marcon) tells her he’s moving in with another woman, she looks up, tells him “I thought you’d love me forever” and leaves the room. Later, escaping to the safety of an old student’s (Roman Kolinka) idyllic countryside commune, she allows herself to cry before carrying on.

Huppert is the right casting choice for a role that requires great self-possession with the occasional hint of vulnerability. It’s a mode she’s excelled in for years. There’s something distant and far removed about her life at the start, as if she’s walking through clad in protective clothing. Political protests take place where she teaches and she simply ignores them, choosing to avoid the practical application of ideas for the intellectual sphere she operates in. Even her mother is a distant object: to be pitied and helped, but not entirely engaged with.

The loss of these firm structures in her life forces a rethinking, one Hansen-Løve teases out gently. There are no dramatic flashpoints or uncharacteristic displays of action. Sweeping the camera after Nathalie as she moves between city life and country escapes, Hansen-Løve captures a person stepping back into life and discovering independence comes with its own rewards. As she gradually casts off old comforts, wrapped neatly into the figure of a rather adorable black cat, she finds life is a constant evolution, her past altering but never disappearing into something new.

It's a low-key revelation in a low-key film; one that shows life never stands still even if it takes a little shaking to bring this home. Things To Come is life shaken until the pieces settle down, similar but different. The future is scary, and always liable to change somehow. It’s not a case of placing value judgements on whether the upheaval is good or bad, or even radical enough to call upheaval; it’s simply about understanding where life’s still left, there’s change to come.

Author rating: 8/10

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