Things to Come
I found an unexpected kinship with Isabelle Huppert (Louder than Bombs, Valley of Love)’s portrayal of Nathalie, a middle-aged philosophy teacher in Paris.
In an interview with the Guardian, filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve (Goodbye First Love, Eden) explains her need to make films, “When I was in my 20s,” she says, “I was completely lost in life. Realising I wanted to make films gave me strength. Because film-making is a perpetual questioning of existence. What is beauty? Why am I living? And I need that, I think, perhaps because of being the daughter of two philosophy teachers.”
Perhaps it was Hansen-Løve’s portrayal of her “fictional” philosophy teacher’s flux and transition that I related to so strongly.
I wanted to see Things to Come when it came out initially, but I was in the process of my own transition: moving to another part of London. It was a number of weeks after its release before I was finally able to walk away from some unpacked boxes and escape for a little culture at the Curzon Bloomsbury cinema (less than fifteen minutes’ walk from my new place, thank you very much!), thanking heaven above that I didn’t miss this title before it left the big screen!
I have rarely met a French film that I didn’t like, and this one was wonderfully satisfying. One of my favorite things about French cinema (or at least the films I tend to see) is their simplicity. They just pick a story and give everything they have to do it justice.
This particular story begins with Nathalie’s fairly perfect life. She’s an inspiring philosophy teacher, a caring wife, mother, and daughter, and she enjoys her work so much that she has no intention of retiring anytime soon. She keeps up an impressive pace of life (which still leaves time for sitting down with a glass of wine. I love France!). When she is blindsided by a series of unfortunate twists, she finds that she is suddenly at a new and unexpected stage in life: one filled with more freedom than she has ever known, and ever expected to have.
What I loved about Things to Come was that Nathalie did not enter into a sort of mid-life crisis. She certainly could have, and many films focus on just that: people falling apart and putting themselves back together again. But I liked that this film did something different. Nathalie is a woman of incredible self-assurance. She knows who she is, what has and has not worked for her in the past, and what she doesn’t want in her future. She isn’t ashamed of her mistakes, and she does her best to handle the curveballs that come. She embraces life.
My moving house obviously pales in significance, but I related to her nonetheless. New seasons in life bring some level of disorientation, no matter how good they are, and time is necessary to acclimate oneself to new ideas, new possibilities. I loved Nathalie’s bold, fearless way of taking on life and living it with integrity, without reservation (and with a lot of sass!). Her stability was an inspiration.
Let’s embrace life together, shall we?