Mia Hansen-Løve’s latest directional accomplishment features none other than the esteemed Isabelle Huppert, proving that together they can do no wrong. Things to Come is an uncannily perceptible portrait of an aging woman whose domestic life is dramatically overturned. Hers is a transitional journey, marked by resilience in the face of an existential crisis.
The first thing we notice about our protagonist, Nathalie, is how much she values the study of philosophy. Academia gives her meaning, and her students gives her purpose. Notably, her house is littered with books – cramming the shelves, resting on cabinets, piled on tables. Yet her work is constantly interrupted by her unwell mother (played to perfection by Édith Scob) whose calls become increasingly frantic, increasingly frustrating, increasingly sad – until they finally cease. Then the husband is gone, and Nathalie is free, but alone.
The film is gently paced throughout. For instance, Hansen-Løve recognises that we don’t need to see the mother’s death – the look on Huppert’s face is enough. Show, rather than tell, seems to be the principle here. Nathalie grieves the losses in her life, privately, but refuses to be conquered by them. She focuses on other pursuits – bonding with her new grandchild and reconnecting with a radical ex-student of hers, refusing to fall in a heap. How impressive to be so strong, and how eye-opening that she had to be. Things to Come is a meditative reflection on middle-age, and, concurrently, a snapshot from the life of an intellectual. It remains confined to a singular vision; a vision which expands until it pulls us inside. This is a modern sensation, a tour-de-force from start to astonishing finish.