Things to Come ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

wow much less, like, redemptive than I thought it would be but so much the better for it

this is my first mia hansen-løve film and I know little about her and her work. for some reason, though, I expected nathalie's husband to confess his affair early in the film, and the remainder to be about nathalie (as the lboxd blurb puts is) "reinvent[ing] her life." I also thought there would be a dramatic turning point maybe 3/4 of the way through, like a hookup with her handsome former student or a screaming fight with her husband. however, no such moment came. misfortune after misfortune befalls nathalie, each one of which might feel like a catastrophe on its own: her husband of 25 years leaves her. her mother dies. her publisher drops her. and yet, these don't play like catastrophes, and hansen-løve doesn't balance them out with good fortune for nathalie, either. that's because, I think, THINGS TO COME isn't really about nathalie's husband leaving her, or her mother dying, or her publisher dropping her. those events might be the dramatic crux of a different story, but life isn't drama, and this is a film about nathalie's life, both before and after these dramatic events—about the things that are torn out of her world and the life that pours in to pool in the spaces left by their absence. it's not about the heart of a life so much as its connective tissue, the mundane details that make up the majority of our days, observed with humor and compassion by hansen-løve and embodied so beautifully by huppert. when her husband gives her a bouquet so ostentatiously big it won't fit in her trash can, she shoves it in an IKEA bag, then throws both in the dumpster. don't leave the IKEA bag in the dumpster! I thought—right before she went back and retrieved it. there's something so organic, so physical & spontaneous about huppert's performance—like when, looking out the bus window in a reverie, she sees her husband and his girlfriend walking down the street and laughs with disbelief—shading into delight—at the absurdity of it all. these reactions feel like they arise from somewhere deep and almost primal within her. I felt fortunate to witness each one.

in the end, there's no reward for all this suffering, either for nathalie or the audience: at least not the kind you might expect. no steamy affair with her former student, no confrontation with her husband or his new girlfriend (although the scene in which her husband angles for an invite to christmas dinner and she refuses to bite is one of the most satisfying I've seen in cinema. huppert is gloriously savage. you expect her to sheathe a bloody sword when it's over). "you're all alone?" her former student asks, late in the film. "there's no one in your life?" yes, she says, and now that I'm a grandmother... the implication is: there never will be. and yet, THINGS TO COME ends on a christmas scene that overflows with love. nathalie's children, son-in-law, and grandchild are at her apartment for dinner. when her grandchild starts to cry, she gets up to soothe him ("I want you to eat while it's hot," she says to the others.) as she sings to him, the credits start to roll. it's a perfectly ordinary scene, and I don't mean to diminish it, but to celebrate it, by saying that. outside it's dark, and inside it's warm and bright and people are happy. I started off by saying that this film isn't redemptive, but now I feel like it is—just in a simpler and truer way than I expected. my high school art teacher had a fortune from a cookie pinned to the wall outside her studio. you will find what you search for is already in your hand. if we're to find redemption in our lives, I think, we must look no further than this.