I watched the director’s Goodbye First Love and missed one in between, but it seems she’s trying to get as subtle as possible here without losing the thread. The following week we watched the kid in 20th Century Women confront his mom about how it feels to be middle-aged by quoting poetry at her – a fine scene within that film, which was full of characters trying to figure each other out through dialogue, but which would have stuck out sorely in this movie, which is similarly about a woman dealing with aging and changes within her family, taking the more contemplative approach.

Edith Scob (last seen in Holy Motors) is philosophy professor Isabelle Huppert’s mom, losing her sense, André Marcon (a lead in Up, Down, Fragile, an Assayas regular) is Huppert’s husband Heinz, who leaves her for a younger woman, and Roman Kolinka (Jean-Louis Trintignant’s grandson) is the ex-student who writes for her prestigious (but financially struggling) line of philosophy books. Huppert stays strong through a series of major and minor indignities, figuring out what to do with herself, presumably in the hopes that she doesn’t end up as clingy and delusional as her mother.

D. Ehrlich:

Hansen-Løve’s latest (and most layered) protagonist is a strong person for whom change does not come naturally. “I thought you’d love me forever,” she flatly tells Heinz on his way out the door, less angry at him for leaving her than she is at herself for being wrong … [Huppert has] been so many different people since her early twenties that it’s compellingly strange to watch her play someone who’s lost between parts, infinite and adrift. As if to ensure that the effect is not lost on us, Nathalie goes to a screening of Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy, a film consumed by the notion of people performing who they are.

A. Nayman:

The waning of hardline radical values is a running motif here, as Nathalie ruefully recalls a pre-marital sojourn in Russia .. and is preoccupied more generally by the problem of adaptability, i.e., if it’s synonymous with compromise.

The movie is also unexpectedly full of good pop and folk songs. Hansen-Løve closely based the story on her own mother’s life. IMDB: “The one thing her mother had her change was the name of the cat. In the original script it was called Desdemona, after the cat it was based on, but her mother had her change it to Pandora to respect the cat’s privacy.” Won best director at Berlin, where it premiered with Fire at Sea, Midnight Special and Boris Without Béatrice.

Cristina Álvarez López, comparing a new film to an old one:

Make Way for Tomorrow is a harsh, angrily ironic critique that takes the form of a comedy with a very sad ending; Things to Come is a serene drama portraying a philosophical attitude towards life, ending on a note of hope. But both films are pierced by a sense of helplessness (more or less graciously endured) in the face of a cruel and unstoppable reality often referred to as progress (historical, economic, social, intellectual, or otherwise), and depicted through an insurmountable generational gap. And both films deal with the painful realization of what it means to become expendable in a world whose clock is no longer in tune with us, a world that once moved in tandem with our lives and is now forcing us to step aside, to jump to the margins — allowing us to participate in it only as observers, looking back at us as if we were a nagging annoyance or, in the best of the cases, occasional guests.

Paris, 1999: Sullivan and Camille are young and in love. He moves to South America, letters arrive less frequently, and flash forward to 2003, Camille has a serious haircut and is taking architecture courses. We see scraps of her life as the years go by, trying to get over Sullivan, dating married professor/architect Lorenz, moving in with him. When Sullivan finally returns to Paris, they get together, but not for long. “I’m leaving you because it’s too late or too soon to start again.”

My first Hansen-Løve movie and it’s a good one, with the beautiful Lola Crèton (Justine in Bastards) made ever-more beautiful by regular Jacques Audiard cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine. The look sometimes made me think of Rohmer, but the way the story and the scenes moved was something else, which I’m apparently not smart enough to describe accurately (Peter Labuza says “sensually naturalistic yet carefully calculated frames“).

In fact I have a hard time defining what makes this a great movie, but I’m convinced that it is. The talk about light in building design reminded me of La Sapienza, a movie I rated more highly than this one on a year-end list, but they could easily switch positions. Ben Sachs’ article in Mubi is a good one:

The movie seems to advance by intuition … Nothing happens comfortably or predictably: Hansen-Løve will devote several minutes to a seemingly mundane action, then advance the plot several months into the future with a simple, unassuming edit. (The greatest elisions, usually skipping over a few years at a time, are denoted by slow fade-outs that suggest the line breaks in a poem.) … The film ends abruptly, and yet at exactly the right moment. Hansen-Løve doesn’t sustain Camille’s final epiphany, which only makes it feel more true to life. The character, now a grown woman capable of elegizing her youth, hasn’t experienced a lifetime of love and regret – she only thinks that she has.