Mia Hansen-Løve’s ‘Things to Come’ finds solace in small admissions of life

Two people standing in the middle of a path that runs through a green park. Their expressions look blank and dismayed and the background appears to be blurred as if in motion while they are pictured clearly.
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With “Things to Come,” Mia Hansen-Løve delivers an affecting character study about a life in transition. The film revolves around Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert), a self-assured philosophy teacher who, after learning that her husband Heinz (André Marcon) is leaving her, must re-evaluate her life as she knows it and attempt to start anew.

It’s a journey made especially moving by the quiet brilliance of Huppert’s performance. Nathalie is a woman who first presents as austere — she spends the opening half hour of the film brushing off the complaints of students on strike, her “crazy” mother and her rapacious publishers with a brusqueness that leaves no room for objection. Huppert deftly builds up Nathalie’s armor only to spend the latter portion of the film wearing it down; her reaction when Heinz announces he’s moving out — a defeated “I thought you’d love me forever” — is the first chink in that armor, a heartbreaking admission of naïveté that Huppert delivers with a rawness not often seen in her peers.

Hansen-Løve lingers on these small admissions, these slices of life, in assembling Nathalie’s story. Viewers are with Nathalie in her various moments of momentous loss but also follow her as she banters with her children around the dinner table, as she walks to the Métro, as she cries on the bus. This restrained, languid direction defines the film’s authenticity — after all, life isn’t made up of big moments or of the grand philosophical pronouncements that Nathalie so loves. It’s mostly just made up of everything in between.

Hansen-Løve strings together all of these in-between moments to create a cogent meditation on loss, the passage of time and the human experience. It’s a film that tracks in big ideas but evades pretentiousness, showcasing the vision of a filmmaker who has mastered her craft.

Contact Grace Orriss at [email protected].