Sadness is soothed by reason, and resurrection a full confident moon in writer/director Mia Hanson-Løve’s tale of heartbreak and loss.
Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert) is a Parisian philosophy teacher and text-book writer who lives in a modest, book-lined flat with her husband. Nathalie’s two children are grown-up, her marriage is a friendly habit and she is responsible for her mentally fragile ‘diva’-mother who frequently calls the pompiers.
Nathalie’s life is an oscillation between satisfaction that comes with intellectual curiosity and the routine of the everyday.
One day Nathalie’s husband announces he has met someone else. She is understandably shaken, but remains in resplendant Huppert-style control. Her intellectual pragmatism responds with a ‘why can’t you keep it a secret?’ before chastising herself for believing in the longevity of love: ‘I thought you would love me forever,’ Nathalie says, almost defeated.
Nathalie’s divorce, and the death of her mother, opens doors to new freedom, including the chance to spend periods of time at a house in the mountains belonging to her radical protégé student and his friends. There, she relaxes with youth and passionate ideas, and just one responsibility: Pandora, her dead-mother’s fat cat, whom she carries on the train in a wicker basket.
Huppert’s performance shows Nathalie as a woman who is sad, but ‘gets on with it’. It’s a practical heartbreak but no less profound. Huppert is appealingly irritable. Two moments are memorable: snapping at Pandora, and crossly stuffing an expensive bunch of flowers given to her by her ex-husband into the bin.
Yet, Nathalie can keep herself tender. She’s ready to sob, privately, and can discuss ideas and worldviews from the heart and the mind. They form Nathalie’s resurrection.
L’Avenir is a film about responses and was inspired by Hanson-Love’s own family experience. She directs without sentiment, and although disappointment and brokenness is explored through the eyes of Huppert’s fifty-something Nathalie, Hanson-Love could be talking about any age-group. This is because she directs to tell the truth, mining us for deep responses that come as naturally as from the characters she has written.
Director: Mia Hanson- Løve (2016)