The youth of the world approach life with piss and vinegar, poised to create a new world order. The old plead from the sidelines – for help, for attention, for one more moment of feeling important. In the middle, there’s a glut of people just trying to figure out where they fit into the plans of both sides.
That middle is where the new film from Mia Hansen-Løve lives, and we are all better for it.
THINGS TO COME is about a philosophy professor whose life goes into complete upheaval within a very short span of time. For Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert), one year brings about the end of a marriage, professional uncertainty, the death of a parent, and the birth of a grandchild. As we watch this Parisian woman deal with each challenge, we slowly begin to understand that no matter or education, social standing, or age…such twists in the road make it difficult for anyone to stay on-course.
Written and directed by Mia Hansen-Løve, THINGS TO COME is chocked full of philosophical discussion. There are debates, quotations, exchanges of ideas, and more name-drops than a Jay-Z album. In scene after scene, we listen as Nathalie engages her pupils, friends, and family in one philosophical conversation after another. And yet, for all of her questioning of life and the universe…for all of her mastery of higher education, Nathalie is left at a loss when it comes to fielding what life lobs at her. She never comes completely unglued exactly – to the contrary, she often seems incredibly poised when given the news.
Still, not long after every major event, we watch as Nathalie is dwarfed by her surroundings. Sometimes it’s the muddy shores near a cottage, sometimes its the peaks and valleys in the image above. Other times its the hustle and bustle of Paris itself. All serve as visual reminders that even the most devout student charged with understanding the ways of the world can be dwarfed when the world feels it’s their time.
Hansen-Løve’s script and direction comes with so much patience and grace. At every turn, we are given the chance not only to watch what happens to Nathalie, but to peek inside her mind and understand how it is affecting her. That almost always takes time, since Huppert plays her as a guarded soul who doesn’t like to show her cards even to her closest consorts. Instead, it’s often on her face as she walks away…or in her posture when she comes home o an empty flat.
Her frustration is impulsive, but measured; the sort that throws away a gift of flowers, but pulls the reusable bag back out of the dumpster.
THINGS TO COME is a tale full of life and all that comes with it. It’s a reminder that as much as we would like to fill our days with wine, love, music, and laughing children that the cost of such delights is depression, heartbreak, self-doubt, and sick parents. It’s all part of the deal, and we have very little control over any of it.
We can study and summarize all we want; in the end the finals are brutally tough to pass.