For Mia Hansen-Løve cinema and life work together. Without nostalgia, the French director builds her films around her own experiences and merge realism and poetry with a flowing passage of time. In “One Fine Morning” she once again dives into the personal and returns to her beloved Paris. In her Isabelle Huppert- helmed “Things to Come”, her previous film set in France, she examined her mother. This is a love letter to her father. It’s deeply moving.
Hansen-Løve was born into philosophy. Both of her parents worked as philosophy teachers in Paris. In “One Fine Morning” an older father is physically in decline. Unlike the mother in “Things to Come” he’s not the main character. “One Fine Morning” focuses instead on his daughter Sandra (Léa Seydoux). She is a young widow raising her daughter and working as a foreign language interpreter and translator. Her life is overwhelming. She rotates visits with her father Georg (Pascal Greggory), who once was a brilliant mind and worked as a philosophy teacher. The father suffers from a neurological condition that affects speech and vision and his ability to comprehend his surroundings diminishes (Hansen-Løve’s own father suffered from a similar disease and passed away during the pandemic). Simultaneously Sandra meets her old friend Clément (Melvil Poupaud) and they fall in love. He is a married dad.
Hansen-Løve weaves together a slice of life that feels huge in the small. Truthful and observant, she once again creates cinema with an impressive pureness and rhythm. Even though this turning point in Sandra’s life is crucial, the filmmaker never tries to dramatize the events and relationships – sentimentality and melodrama is just not her cup of tea. When Sandra, and her mother and sister (Nicole Garcia and Sarah Le Picard), deal with the devastating task of moving the father to several care facilities, Hansen-Løve also pays tribute to the people working there, but also to Paris an ordinary day.
The film flies by like a wind. You realize that things already happened after they happen. Hansen-Løve’s most concrete characteristic throughout her films is the characters in motion – which she started with 2009 in her breakthrough “Father of My Children”. Combining a stripped down script and editing with long time collaborator Marion Monnier, she tells what is needed and let you fill the gaps and feel the gravity – time shrinks. Her attributes are to avoid the trap of big gestures or dressing the story in hip cover. Instead Sandra in “One Fine Morning” experiences these moments with a sort of lightness. When Clément touches her emotions, she still remains patient and realist. But inside her it bubbles.
Léa Seydoux owns the role as Sandra. In one of her best performance, her eyes, body languages and gestures tell what happens under the surface. Sandra is grace, in an intensely emotional period. Not only with her father but also with the romance that starts and ends and starts again. Ordinary yet unique with a more similar look to “Blue is the Warmest Color” (but without the blue) than to “Midnight in Paris” or “No Time to Die”, Seydoux moves through the film smoothly. Her father George is wonderfully played by Pascal Greggory, who is most famous for Eric Rohmer’s films where he talked a lot. Here he has lost the words. For Sandra it’s important to not throw away her father’s collection of books (and therefor his memory) when he has to move around the care facilities – “the body is the envelope, books are the soul”. Language is also a theme in “One Fine Morning”. Sandra works as a interpreter and translator, both from German and English, and the silence and speech problems of a former philosophy teacher, who was devoted to the beauty of language, makes it even more touching.
Hansen-Løve knows how to bring out great performances. Her own life changed when she as a 16-year-old teenager got a role in Olivier Assayas’s “Late August, Early September” in 1998. During those four days of acting she realized she wanted to work with films. She chose to direct and became life companion with Assayas a few years later. Now considered as one of France most important filmmakers, she returns to form with “One Fine Morning”. After Swedish Fårö-set and English speaking “Bergman Island” and India-set “Maya”, she finds her strength again. It’s in France’s autobiographic water Hansen-Løve creates the perfect tone and feels most fluid, just like her “The Father of My Children”, “Goodbye First Love”, “Eden” and “Things to Come”.
As embodied in the title “One Fine Morning”, there is openness, easiness and ambiguity, and a strong bond to “Things to come” (in French called “L’Avenir” – The Future). At the heart of the film people try to find meaning in existence and Hansen-Løve shows the way they should go. It’s about the impossibility of ending time, but instead embracing it.
Grade : A-
Here’s the trailer of the film.