Things to Come
Director: Mia Hansen-Love
Year of release: 2016
Running time: 1 hour 42 minutes
As its most basic level, writer-director Mia Hansen-Love's Things to Come is about a woman of a certain age experiencing a mid-life crisis. That woman is Nathalie Chazeaux; a popular Philosophy teacher who has been married for 25 years, has two grown children, and a former protege now engaged in political activism. Since we've seen stories like this before; where a long-time marriage crumbles due to infidelity and the changing of the times dictates a new direction, there's a certain expectation of where this narrative will go. However, since this is a film directed by Hansen-Love and starring the venerable Isabelle Huppert, any cliches inherent in the premise are inverted simply because they choose to leave out the threads most would inevitably highlight.
The film's complexities lie not in the big moments or sweeping sentiments; but rather, in the daily rhythms and rituals of mundanity. Nathalie finds great hope and fulfillment in her intellectualism and philosophical ideals, and yet she is still reeling from a kind of emotional uncertainty after her marriage falls apart and her previously well-respected class courses begin undergoing a more modern overhaul. Hansen-love illustrates this middle-age crisis by continuously upending our expectations. When she goes to visit her former student in an activist commune, for example, we expect some kind of late-period resurrection, or perhaps a doomed romantic love affair to transpire. And yet, Things to Come always makes the case that observing an ordinary life is more rewarding than being forced a happy ending; with Huppert's sensitive, emotionally rich, warmly funny, and subtly complex performance giving us a living example of how most stories rarely offer clear resolutions.