One Fine Morning
2023, R, 112 min. Directed by Mia Hansen-Løve. Starring Léa Seydoux, Melvil Poupaud, Pascal Greggory, Sarah Le Picard, Nicole Garcia, Fejria Deliba.
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., March 24, 2023
Cogent thought does not come easily to someone suffering from a neurodegenerative disease, but unexpected poetry can happen. A former philosophy professor quietly drifting away from present tense living, Georg (Greggory) struggles to articulate himself to his adult daughter Sandra (Seydoux). “It’s a bit difficult at times...” Georg starts, before landing on the source of his difficulty: “Living.”
One Fine Morning is not predominantly about Georg’s plight, though it is beautifully performed and sensitively dramatized. (Writer/director Mia Hansen-Løve has said the film was inspired by her own father’s illness.) The focus instead is on daughter Sandra, a translator in Paris and widowed mother to a young child. The film in its way is an itemizing – matter-of-fact, unsentimental, and terribly moving – of the difficulties Sandra faces everyday with grace. There is how to manage her father’s transition into assisted living; he will cycle through four care homes over the course of the film. There is how to raise a daughter (Le Picard) in the city on limited means. There is how to navigate a new relationship when the man in question – Clément (Poupaud), a scientist and friend of her late husband – is still married.
Admirers of Hansen-Løve’s previous film, her English-language debut Bergman Island, may be surprised at how straightforward One Fine Morning is, how resistant it is to delivering a capital-letter Cinematic Moment. There’s no equivalent here to Mia Wasikowska’s dance to “The Winner Takes It All” – a heart-clenching collision of desire and despair and dawning understanding – and that’s rather the point. Sandra is nowhere near catharsis. Who has the time for that?
In inferior material – for instance, a couple of pretty lousy Bond films – Seydoux can present as somewhat low-energy. Here, her preternatural stillness makes sense: You feel the heaviness of her stresses. You also feel her regular joy in the mundanities of raising a kid and spending time with a new lover. If this all sounds a little anti-dramatic, then that too is the point. That’s living.
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One Fine Morning, Mia Hansen-Løve, Léa Seydoux, Melvil Poupaud, Pascal Greggory, Sarah Le Picard, Nicole Garcia, Fejria Deliba