Things to Come (2016) Sundance Selects/Drama RT: 102 minutes Rated PG-13 (brief language, drug use) Director: Mia Hansen-Love Screenplay: Mia Hansen-Love Music: Raphael Hamburger (supervisor) Cinematography: Denis Lenoir Release date: January 27, 2017 (Philadelphia, PA) Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Andre Marcon, Roman Kolinka, Edith Scob, Sarah Le Picard, Solal Forte, Elise Lhomeau, Lionel Dray, Gregoire Montana-Haroche, Lina Benzerti. Spoken in French w/English subtitles
Last week, Isabelle Huppert scored a Best Actress nomination for her turn as a rape victim in Paul Verhoeven’s emotionally wrenching drama-thriller Elle. It’s still playing on at least one area screen (Ritz Bourse, 4th & Chestnut) and I urge you to see it as soon as you can. Huppert can also currently be seen in Things to Come playing a completely different kind of role. She plays a philosophy professor whose life is about to be upturned by events beyond her control. She’s equally superb in both roles. The 63-year-old actress consistently exhibits strength and grace in every character she plays. I noticed this way back in 1989 when I saw her in Story of Women for the first time. Like fine wine, she keeps getting better with age.
In Things to Come, written and directed by Mia Hansen-Love (Eden), Huppert’s character must deal with the gradual slipping away of her comfortable and predictable bourgeois lifestyle. Natalie Chazeaux teaches philosophy at a university where groups of angry, outspoken students regularly block access to the entrance in protest of “the system”. Up until now, Natalie was content with her life. Then things, as they’re prone to do, change. Her two kids (Le Picard and Forte) are grown and in college. Her husband of 25 years, Heinz (Marcon, Marguerite), announces that he’s leaving her for a younger woman. It comes as a real shock to Natalie who thought everything was fine between them. Her aged mother’s (Scob) mental and physical health is declining. It gets so bad, Natalie has to put her in a rest home which makes her the new caretaker of her mother’s cat.
Things aren’t much better for her professionally. Her publishers have just informed her that the textbooks she wrote have become obsolete. At one time, they were standard reading in philosophy courses. Now they’re too austere; they’re not sexy enough. Funny, I never thought of philosophy as sexy. Natalie’s only real solace is her blooming friendship with a former student, Fabien (Kolinka), who lives in a collective in the countryside. Every night, they sit around smoking cigarettes (and other stuff) while discussing ways to put their radical ideas into action. Fabien challenges Natalie to reexamine her bourgeois lifestyle.
Ultimately, Things to Come is about a woman entering a new stage in life, one without the trappings to which she became accustomed. On a deeper level, it’s about time and how it operates as a force in our lives. No matter what happens, time continues to move forward. It never stops for anything or anybody. It’s an unstoppable force; fighting it is a futile endeavor. People must adjust to the changes that occur over the passage of time. Love illustrated this very thing in Eden with its protagonist, a DJ who stays pretty much the same while others around him mature and move on from the party scene. In Things to Come, Natalie learns to let go of the things she thought defined her as such attachments will only prevent her from making the transition to her next life chapter.
As I already said, Huppert is a wonderful actress. She has a very commanding presence that some might mistake for bitchiness. Things to Come is most definitely her movie! However, she’s not the only great thing about it. I like how Love refrains from veering into melodrama in presenting Natalie’s internal journey. She resists the urge to give us scenery-chewing scenes of the main character reaching some sort of catharsis. She also avoids the clichés we’ve come to expect of this kind of movie. Instead, she examines the inner complexities of humanity through her main character and does so quite elegantly. Things to Come isn’t as concerned with what happens next as it is with how Natalie reacts to them. It really is quite a film. It tells a compelling story while it enlightens on the human condition with all its frailties and fallacies. You may want to check this out after you see Elle; it’s the best way to observe the wide range of Huppert’s talent.