Mia Hansen-Løve, France/Germany
The emotional struggles of middle-age come to the fore in the sensitively handled film from director Mia Hansen-Løve. Nathalie (Isabell Huppert) is a woman coming into her later years with everything comfortably in its place - she is a philosophy teacher who writes academic texts, her students appreciate her input and stay in contact after they leave her class, and she is happily married with two adjusted adult children. When she is informed by her husband that he is leaving her for a younger woman, Nathalie has to readjust her ideas about her future and herself.
There is no doubt that this film is about grief. Nathalie is grieving both her past and her future. No longer will she be able to go the house in Brittany, owned by her husband, filled with so many memories of the family and which she had lovingly landscaped. The bookcases which dominated the apartment she shared with her husband are suddenly sparse, many of her favorite texts missing. She also sees something of her future in her mother, an eccentric and slightly senile woman who lives alone and still spends far too much on her wardrobe, trying to grasp onto the fading realities of her past. The future is no longer what she imagined, and there is a fear and sorrow there. Growth too. She begins to expand, going on trips to visit a young former student, who is still enthralled with the ideas of revolutionary philosophy. Slowly, but surely, she finds herself coming to peace with her new life, and discovering that she actually enjoys it.
The film is dominated by Nathalie’s character and Isabell Huppert shines in the role, making a simple story compelling. Mila Hansen-Løve does an exceptional job at dealing with the subject of middle-age in a touching and poignant way, particularly considering the director is only thirty-five. Perhaps the most important aspect of Things to Come is its quiet subtlety, there are no massive screaming matches or thrown objects, life moves on, and in the end Nathalie finds that she is at peace with herself and is happy with who she has become.