In Mia Hansen-Love’s “Things To Come” Isabelle Huppert plays Nathalie Chazeaux, a philosophy teacher living in Paris whose life (as she currently knows it) drastically changes. She discovers that her husband/fellow teacher Heinz (Andre Marcon) is cheating on her, she experiences a death in her family and a second edition of her philosophy textbook won’t be published by the book company. Wow. That’s a lot to take.
“Things to Come” is a mature, beautifully understated film about an intelligent, strong willed woman navigating a crucial transitional period in her life—between domestic obligations/comfort and the freedom to do whatever the hell she wants. This later stage is enticing as well as intimidating. To go from a comfortable, modest life of routine and obligations to no fixed routine or obligations at all is overwhelming, almost like being reborn. Sometimes, too much freedom can be oppressive. The film portrays Nathalie’s newfound anxiety and excitement with honesty and playfulness.
Love seamlessly blends drama and comedy resulting in a film that’s serious without being melodramatic (during these major, life altering events the director shows incredible restraint) and lightly humorous without trying overly hard to be funny--i.e strained and cliché jokes involving Nathalie consuming pot brownies or going skydiving, like we would see in the hypothetical cruddy American remake no doubt. Better yet, the film refreshingly doesn’t try to shoehorn in a romantic sub plot (this would also be in that cruddy American remake). Guess what: the key to self-happiness/getting over your cheating husband does not always involve immediately finding another mate. Ultimately the film’s focus remains squarely on Nathalie and her personal, uncertain journey of (re) self-discovery.
Huppert is remarkable in the role, so remarkable in fact that I wish I had a professor like Nathalie in college. She’s composed and assertive, fully confident in her ability as a teacher, effortlessly witty and charismatic. But she’s also not averse to expressing the sadness and anxiety bubbling in her (I would probably be a mess in her shoes). Huppert give such a natural, unassuming performance, it’s cliché to say I know but you really do forget she’s acting. “Things To Come” isn’t groundbreaking but it’s pleasurable to watch thanks to Huppert’s raw, nuanced onscreen presence and Love’s light, thoughtful directorial touch.