Berlin Film Festival – Things To Come (L’Avenir) – Review
Reviewed by Miranda Schiller @mirandadadada
Natalie (Isabelle Huppert) is a high school philosophy teacher, and although she spends a great deal reading and thinking about freedom and the best way of life, her own life takes place in rather narrow limits. Like, as she says, most intellectuals of her generation, she used to have radical ideas in her youth, even travelled to the USSR, but she has long left desires of starting a revolution behind and is comfortable in her bourgeois existence. She dismisses protesting students as silly, political theory now interests her only as that – theory.
But when her mother dies, her husband leaves her after 25 years of marriage and her publisher decides to make philosophy textbooks less old-school, she is catapulted out of her comfortable existence and has to find a new way of living by herself, of what to do with the freedom she had previously only considered theoretically.
With Things To Come, writer/director Mia Hansen-Løve paints a warm portrait of a woman ageing, a woman who has left the spontaneity and conviction of youth behind, who is starting to lose the matter-of-fact attitude of her middle age, but who doesn’t know yet what she will be in the next stage of her life. Isabelle Huppert’s performance is full of nervous energy, restless, but never giving the impression of a confused or weak woman. She carries most of the film’s appeal, filling Nathalie with all the little contradictions and quirks that ground the human aspects of her character.
Nathalie finds herself drawn to the much younger Fabien (Roman Kolinka), a brilliant former student who has gone to live with intellectual anarchists in the countryside, where she finds room to reevaluate her life choices, but does not find fertile ground to start anew. Kolinka has some great moments, but his character remains one-sided, essentially prompting Nathalie to confront the relevant questions and to develop.
Thankfully, their friendship never takes on a romantic tinge. Nathalie is an intellectual, she is instantly dismissive of the idea of finding new love at her age – but not because she thinks it’s impossible, because it doesn’t interest her. Like her protagonist is more interested in living a life true to oneself, Hansen- Løve is interested in the little ways our thinking and convictions come across in our daily actions. Even though Nathalie’s life is dramatically changed, there is not much drama in Things To Come. With lightness and a good amount of humour, It prefers to dwell on the small moments. Seemingly banal interactions, that add up to a meaningful whole.