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Isabelle Huppert is
mesmerizing in a rare, mature film of ideas
Derakhshani, Staff Writer
Posted: January 25, 2017
A union to cherish between a writer-director and star
working at peak power, Things to Come offers quietly profound observations on
life, love, and the irrevocable passage of time. --Rotton
Visually arresting, but never precious, it's
filled with ideas that have relevance to actual life, ideas that are based on a
moral conviction that a question well-posed is far more valuable than an easy
answer. --Philadelphia Inquirer
There's a remarkable sequence in
the latter part of Things to Come that illuminates so elegantly the many moving
strands of this simple story about the inner complexities of being
Nathalie, an acclaimed philosopher gracefully portrayed by
Isabelle Huppert, takes the dais at a memorial service for her mother
(Edith Scob), an unmanageable
neurotic who tested her daughter's love at every turn. A narcissistic,
hypochondriac former actress, she died shortly after Nathalie put her in a
Relieved of the burden of her mother's demands, which makes her feel ever
more wracked by guilt, Nathalie reads a
passage from Pascal's famous Pensées about the thinker's inability to divine the
existence of the Divine from nature alone. Isolated, confused, he asks for a
sign so that he can know for certain how to live well, how to do
The text lingers as a voice-over as we see Nathalie weeping on her way home
alone on a bus.
Then she happens to see her estranged husband (André Marcon) on the sidewalk strolling arm in arm
with his young girlfriend. Nathalie is shocked for a fraction of a second, then
she begins to laugh gently at herself.
Moments like this permeate Things
to Come, a deeply satisfying film of ideas from French
Hansen-Løve (Goodbye First Love, Eden) that explores ways in which
the life of the mind illuminates – or conflicts – with lived reality.
Huppert, 63, who this week was
nominated for an Oscar for her turn in Elle, an emotionally
wrenching thriller about rape, is equally superb here in a far different role as
a woman forced to acknowledge that she's also unable to see the signs Pascal
A former '60s radical turned college professor, Nathalie
is now part of the Establishment, a famous prof whose textbooks have become
standard reading in philosophy courses.
Then one by one, she is stripped of all the trappings
that made her life predictable and safe: Her mom dies, her husband of 25 years
leaves her, and their two kids (Sarah Le Picard and Solal Forte) depart for
Hansen-Løve paces the action perfectly as it draws her protagonist
through the several stages of her trial by fire.
As if things weren't bad enough, Nathalie also loses her
publisher: The new marketing team decides her textbooks aren't sexy enough.
They're too austere, too old-fashioned.
Things truly come to a head when Nathalie's protégé, a beautiful young
radical doctoral student named Fabien (Roman Kolinka) challenges her to reexamine her
has a lot of fun with Fabien's character. He lives on a
group farm with a gaggle of fellow young radicals where they raise goats, listen
to Woody Guthrie, and discuss how they can put their radical ideas into radical
action while smoking a lot of cigarettes.
At its satirical best, Things
to Come takes aim at some of the sacred cows of French academia,
showing how the posturing of today's radical kids seems to repeat the attitudes
their parents had in the '60s.
Will they simply grow up to be like Nathalie, with her
bourgeois attachments to her house and her things, to her husband, and her
The film asks: Is radicalism self-defeating, fated to
turn either to violence and terrorism or to mellow into bourgeois
film reminds me of the work of Eric
Rohmer: Visually arresting, but never
precious, it's filled with ideas that have relevance to actual life, ideas that
are based on a moral conviction that a question well-posed is far more valuable
than an easy answer.
Posted: January 25, 2017 - 3:33 PM
Derakhshani, Staff Writer
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