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Filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve is a master chronicler of the everyday internal strife many of us can identify with but perhaps aren’t keen to discuss. In “Bergman Island,” there’s a sense of professional tension between a couple driving the plot. In “Goodbye, First Love,” the pangs and aches of young romance have a far-reaching effect on adulthood. In Hansen-Løve’s stellar "Things to Come," a philosophy professor faces a personal and professional identity crisis but finds an opportunity in this new stage of her life.
Hansen-Løve’s work is heartfelt yet profound, emotionally and mentally engaging in ways few films dare to balance. Her latest work, “One Fine Morning” is no different. Sandra (Léa Seydoux) is a widow raising her daughter Linn (Camille Leban Martins) and increasingly taking on the responsibilities of caring for her dad Georg (Pascal Greggory) whose degenerative illness is taking away his mind and independence at an alarming speed. Around this chaotic time, she reconnects with an old friend, Clément (Melvil Poupaud), and the pair begin an on-and-off again affair. Shuffling between her work as a translator, inspecting care facilities for her father, steamy dates with an old flame, and picking up her daughter from school or fencing classes, her heart and attention constantly feel in demand. At the same time, her wants and needs are pushed away.
Written and directed by Hansen-Løve, “One Fine Morning” has a quiet sense of devastation. No matter how much effort she puts into her relationships, Sandra will have to say goodbye to her father at some point. Her daughter is growing up like all kids do and will one day no longer come running home to hug her mother. Clément’s role in her life is almost that of a distraction during these awful days. Still, he has his own problems (namely a wife and child) that get in the way of his ability to be there for Sandra, causing her equal measures of companionship and heartbreak. Hansen-Løve carefully treats these events as everyday tragedies. Sandra often stifles her sobs or excuses herself from company when overwhelmed, but she must go on. Her work and parenting do not allow much room for a dramatic breakdown. Her loved ones are counting on her.
Like Sandra, we share or have likely experienced fear for the day our parents will die or the anxiety that we’ll end up alone when our latest romance ends. And like her, life often forces us to keep moving through our grief whether or not we are ready. Seydoux’s intricate performance captures that sense of completing a busy mental to-do list while holding back frustration and tears of the day for when she’s alone. Seydoux can tell the audience what her character is going through with just a few gestures or stares. Whether it’s writing and deleting texts she wants to send to Clément or fixing on a half-hearted smile to visit her dad when he no longer recognizes her, there is a sad sense of beauty and strength in the performance and how her character navigates the caregiving for two generations while making herself vulnerable enough for a possible new chance at love.
As with several of her previous films, Hansen-Løve rejoins longtime cinematographer Denis Lenoir to match the visual tones of her film with her story. In scenes involving the care homes for Sandra’s father, the walls of the institutions might change—from a sickly green to faded yellow to washed-out blues—but the lifelessness of fluorescent lights remains painfully ubiquitous at each location. Outside, most notably in scenes with Clément and Linn, the natural glow lights up her apartment or park walks with a sense of hope for the future. She is alive in these sequences, even if she’s insecure about being seen outside with Clément or feels like she’s not doing enough as a mother. Depending on the seasonal or emotional shifts in the narrative, these moments range from Sirkian pastels to toasty summer hues, further enhancing the underlying mood at the heart of the moment.
Many may feel the pressure Sandra is under in “One Fine Morning” at some point in our lives—juggling family responsibilities with personal romances and professional obligations. Even if we haven’t dealt with them as intensely as she does in the film, we might recognize that struggle in our friends, colleagues, or acquaintances. The scenarios of Hansen-Løve’s films can feel rarified and unique at first glance, yet they are painfully relatable on some level. They may be devoid of melodramatic showdowns, but there’s a quiet ferocity to them in the way they so deftly address our daily pain, insecurity, and loneliness, still resonating with us long after the movie’s over.
Now playing in theaters.
Léa Seydoux as Sandra Kienzler
Pascal Greggory as Georg Kienzler
Melvil Poupaud as Clément
Nicole Garcia as Françoise
Camille Leban Martins as Linn
Elsa Guedj as Esther
Ema Zampa as Irina
Kester Lovelace as Mackenzie
Sharif Andoura as Doctor
Masha Kondakova as Young Nurse