Parisienne philosophy professor Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert) finds herself at odds when a series of dismaying events occur which leave her completely untethered and surprisingly free. Having arrived at her midlife chock-full of wisdom and stability, she finds herself drifting for the first time. First, her husband and fellow philosopher, Heinz, announces he has fallen in love with another woman and is leaving her. Soon after, Nathalie’s mentally ill mother passes away, leaving Nathalie to organize the aftermath alone.
Nathalie, ever pragmatic, does not let these events consume her and instead uses her newfound freedom as a fresh start. She travels to the countryside where her former student, Fabien (Roman Kolinko), has set up a sort of anarchist commune. Here she discovers the true extent of her freedom and what it means as it clashes with norms she had not known existed. Her identity has unraveled, and she must figure out how to piece it back together.
I’ve found my freedom. Total freedom. I’ve never experienced it. It’s extraordinary.
Director Mia Hansen-Løve entirely captures the heart-aching melancholy of middle life. She views Nathalie’s situation with sympathy and clarity and a sense of idealism rather than nostalgia. Things To Come truly feels like an actual, lived in experience—a feeling Hansen-Løve excels at creating. She is far more interested in portraying honest, raw, and genuine stories than those filled to the brim with melodrama and obvious plot points. The plot, rather than neatly structured, is random and nomadic, which more vibrantly reflects the undulations of time. Hansen-Løve has proven herself time and time again to be an accomplished director, and Things To Come only adds to her roster of excellent films.
Huppert once again proves she is a force to be reckoned with. Her meticulously intellectual and brilliantly instinctive acting allows her to portray Nathalie’s complex nature perfectly. There could be no one else more wonderful for the role. Nathalie is at once bitter and hardened, and painfully vulnerable, which Huppert seems to intuitively understand how to portray. Perhaps the most heart-breaking line is when Heinz tells Nathalie he is leaving her and she whispers, half-broken, “I thought you’d love me forever.”
The final moments pulse with new life under the soft sounds of “Unchained Melody” as sung gently by the Fleetwoods. Things To Come perfectly encapsulates the wistfulness of life in the most unexpectedly heart-wrenching way. An excellent film, it has swiftly made its way toward the top of my favorite films list.
Jenna Kalishman is a freelance writer and cinephile based in Colorado who often focuses on female and queer perspectives as well as female-led projects. She spends much of her free time listening to Stevie Nicks and re-watching Carol. You can find her on twitter @jenkalish.