L’Avenir (Things to Come)
L’Avenir is a definite departure from writer/director Mia Hansen Love’s previous work, which focused on 20-somethings in contemporary France. This time, her eye is trained on Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert), a philosophy teacher on the verge of retirement, watching the foundations of her life – her marriage, her mother, and her place in the academic world – slip away from her, piece by piece. Both Nathalie and her husband are intellectuals who were part of the cultural revolution in 1968, but have let their lives gather dust like their enormous libraries.
The premise of the film suggests a dark tragedy on a downward spiral, but the twist of the film is Nathalie’s journey to discovering a new self. Huppert brings the character to life with a nuanced display of a struggling woman who finds new strength in adversity. The actress claims to have been attracted to the character because the film is a coming-of-age story, but the plucky, confused teenager has been replaced by a mature woman who has become too comfortable in her life. The character is depicted in a sensual, light and youthful way; Hansen Love has a remarkable way of allowing the story to trickle slowly and languidly, refusing to rely on dramatic catalysts and rather using small moments of intimacy and sensual cinematography to develop the protagonist. The heat of the Parisian summer is tangible, Nathalie’s freshly prepared strawberry tart can be tasted, the mud between her toes when she visits the countryside can be felt.
The film’s greatest strength is Nathalie’s interaction with a former student (Roman Kolinka) as he introduces her to the radical commune he has become a part of. He reminds her of how engaged and active she used to be, and the film is as much a cross-generational study as it is a character study. Nathalie learns from her students but also accepts that she’s “too old for radicality”. L’Avenir is a poignant feminist portrait that burns slowly but deeply.
L’Avenir does not yet have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for L’Avenir here: