In "Things To Come", Isabelle Huppert portrays Nathalie, a high school philosophy teacher residing in Paris with her husband, Heinz (André Marcon), and their two grown children. Her mother, Yvette (Edith Scob), is basically homebound and relays on Nathalie for all of her needs.
But Nathalie is driven to teach and help her students learn to think for themselves. Two life-changing events thrust Nathalie into a territory which is completely foreign. However she finds herself adapting to her new life better than expected.
Written and directed by Mia Hansen-Love, "Things To Come" is the perfect vehicle for Huppert. We recently saw her in the French thriller "Elle", in which she gives an equally forceful performance. Both Nathalie and Elle are strong, driven women, though the character Elle has a bit more of an edge. Hansen-Love used her parents, especially her mother, as an inspiration for Nathalie. The raw emotions of death and divorce are laid bare, but Nathalie's actions and reactions are not always what we might expect.
I particularly enjoyed Nathalie's evolving relationship with her mother's cat, Pandora. It begins as a love/hate tangle --- Nathalie's allergic --- and ends with a gesture of exceeding kindness and selflessness.
I was not enthralled with the choice of Marcon as Nathalie's husband. He elicits little or no emotions --- anger, loathing, empathy --- nothing. I found it to be a lackluster portrayal, which is perhaps why Nathalie doesn't have much of a reaction to his news.
"Things To Come" is another in a long line of French films which depict the everyday issues of life with such a perfunctory perfection. Huppert's performance here won't keep you on the edge of your seat as in "Elle". but Hansen-Love wrote "Things To Come" with her in mind, and she could not have asked for a better outcome.
Opinion: See It Now!
If anyone can name a more engrossing actress in film today than Isabelle Huppert, I would be surprised. The veteran of well over 100 movies, still beautiful at 63, is considered by many in France as their greatest living film star.
In 2016, Huppert can be seen in the stunner "Elle" (reviewed recently by Kaplan vs Kaplan), and now in "Things To Come", a much quieter picture showcasing a middle-aged woman facing multiple crises in her life. The impending death of a mother would be enough to send anyone over a cliff, but Nathalie (Huppert) must also deal with her philandering husband Heinz (André Marcon),who announces he has "met someone" and is moving in with her. This comes after 25 years of marriage and two children.
Nathalie does not become unglued or run around in a rage. Instead she embraces this second chance at life, relishing her new-found freedom. When former philosophy student Fabien (Roman Kolinka) visits her unannounced, they are more like old friends than teacher and pupil. And writer-director Mia Hansen-Love imbues the film with the implicit notion that these two could become something more, except we learn right away that Fabien has a girlfriend.
"Things To Come" will not blow anyone away with special effects or other dazzling imagery. It's simply a slice-of-life story that anyone can relate to, and with Huppert at the center of it all, it's a pleasure to watch. Nathalie's reaction at seeing Heinz on the street with his new-found love, from her seat on a bus, is priceless. And when Heinz shows up at their home later on, we half expect him to beg for Nathalie's forgiveness, perhaps because his lover has cast him out. Images of "An Unmarried Woman", starring the late Jill Clayburgh, come to mind. But Hansen-Love stops short of insisting that the jilted wife must find a new significant other to carry on.
Huppert excels in projecting the opposite of what we expect. That was true with "Elle" and continues in "Things To Come". A delightfully cute black cat tries to steal the show from Huppert, and almost succeeds....but not quite.
Opinion: See It Now!