Director: Mia Hansen Love (Eden, Goodbye First Love, Father of My Children)
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Andre Marcon, Roman Kolinka and Edith Scob
Synopsis: Nathalie teaches philosophy at a high school in Paris. She is passionate about her job and particularly enjoys passing on the pleasure of thinking. Married with two children, she divides her time between her family, former students and her very possessive mother. One day, Nathalie's husband announces he is leaving her for another woman. With freedom thrust upon her, Nathalie must reinvent her life. French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 102 Minutes (plus 8-10 minutes of trailers)
Official Web Site:
MPAA Rating: PG-13
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Philosophy consoles in ‘Things to Come’
By Peter Keough Globe Correspondent
At the beginning of Mia Hansen-Love’s wry, cerebral, and moving “Things to Come,” philosophy teacher Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert) jots in her notebook, “Can one put oneself in the place of another?” That is just one of the thorny questions broached in this cinematic rarity — a genuinely philosophical film.
Given some of the people she must deal with, however, you have to wonder why Nathalie would want to put herself in their place. Nor does she seem to make much of an effort in doing so.
With haughty disdain, she brushes by the students protesting a change in the French retirement age outside the school where she teaches. She speaks to her husband and fellow pedagogue Heinz (André Marcon), who has metamorphosed over the decades from socialist firebrand to plump, pipe-smoking bourgeois, with ill-disguised contempt. She shows little sympathy for her depressive, needy mother Yvette (Édith Scob), especially after Yvette has called the fire department for the third time in the week to deal with her panic attacks. She doesn’t even like her mother’s increasingly symbolic cat, Pandora.
But in art, if not in life, the gods punish those who lose the capacity for empathy. In short order Nathalie loses many of the perks and privileges of her profession and the middle-class status she had taken for granted. Hansen-Love subtly underscores this estrangement by changing from staidly composed shots to a more erratically moving camera. The editing becomes elliptical, ending scenes before they have concluded and cutting to a point after the conclusion has been reached. As in her previous film “Eden” (2014), Hansen-Love shows an instinct for depicting the passage of consciousness through time.
Complementing Hansen-Love’s deft writing and direction, Huppert transforms what might have been an unsympathetic role into a character who embodies universal anxieties, desires, weaknesses, and virtues. Her seemingly chilly detachment warms when she laughs with bemused incredulity at the absurdity of her misfortunes. She does not reveal much of her past, but when she does it is quietly devastating, as is a scene when she weeps in bed, her arms around a purring Pandora.
Though “Things to Come” does not directly respond to the opening question, the answer would seem to be yes. Films like this are a way to put oneself in the place of another.