One Fine Morning: Hansen-Love’s (Cannes Fest 2022)

The brilliant and versatile actress Léa Seydoux plays a single mom juggling an ailing father and a new lover in the latest from the writer-director of Bergman Island and Things to Come.

 

Hansen-Løve’s 2021 Bergman Island was more ambitious, but her new movie is more emotionally complex, in vein with the writer-director’s Things to Come, starring Isabelle Huppert.

One Fine Morning is concerned with life’s curveballs and catastrophes, and unforeseen joys. It deals with themes that Hansen-Løve has been exploring throughout her career: mortality, heartbreak, parent-child relationships, the meaning of independence, the sustaining power of intellectual passion.

Much of what transpires is bleak, but Hansen-Løve avoids melodrama and misery. Despite the stress and suffering onscreen, the overriding mood is realistic, suggesting that changes are inevitable and that ultimately life does go on.

One Fine Morning is a tale of hardship of a woman who withstands turbulence by adjusting, shifting priorities and making the most excruciating times endurable.

A single working mother with a young daughter (Camille Leban Martins), Sandra seems to have been on autopilot since her husband died five years ago. Early scenes show her hustling from rendez-vous to rendez-vous as she juggles a career as an interpreter (translating from English and German into French at conferences), school pick-ups and drop-offs and various family obligations. She is tending to her father, Georg (Pascal Greggory), a philosophy professor battling a neurodegenerative disease.

Sandra’s leftist mother (Nicole Garcia) — divorced from Georg and now remarried — and sister (Sarah Le Picard), along with Georg’s partner (Fejria Deliba), help Sandra navigate the maddening maze of elder care: They move Georg out of his apartment, into a hospital and then from senior facility to senior facility. But you can see the toll of always putting other people’s needs before her own in Sandra’s fatigue-rimmed eyes.

Sandra’s survival is disrupted when she runs into Clément (Melvil Poupaud), an old friend, with his son. A tentative flirtation leads to full-blown romance. Clément is married unhappily, and the relationship between him and Sandra unfolds with sensuality, and vulnerability.

While Sandra grows closer to Clément, opening herself to happiness, she also starts gently detaching from her father.

But Sandra isn’t a martyr or victim; she’s human, and lonely, with yearnings more powerful than practicality or pride. Seydoux and Hansen-Løve convey such a generous, precise feel for who Sandra is that you want for her whatever she wants at that moment — whether it’s pulling back from Clément or pressing forward.

There’s an emotional richness and authenticity to Seydoux’s performance here.

The actress gives Sandra’s decency and enthralling immediacy: her features collapse in hushed disappointment when Clément tells her he’s going back to his wife.

Poupaud is also superb in a performance that underlines the sincere ardor beneath his character’s vacillations. Clément isn’t a scoundrel or cad; he’s a man overwhelmed by his feelings for Sandra but struggling with moral obligation.

Hansen-Løve directs with restrained naturalism punctuated by lusher touches: One embrace between Sandra and Clément, reunited at a café after a time apart, is choreographed with the classical precision and grace of a climactic pas de deux. Hansen-Løve sets that moment and many others to an exquisite theme, at once melancholy and nimble, by Swedish composer Jan Johansson — and once more offers a master class in using music to coax out, rather than dictate, a viewer’s response. (Other filmmakers should also take note of how she cuts away before a scene starts to drag or nag.)

Shot on film by DP Denis Lenoir, One Fine Morning captures vividly Paris through the various seasons.

Cannes Film Festival (Directors’ Fortnight)

Cast:

Léa Seydoux, Melvil Poupaud, Pascal Greggory, Nicole Garcia, Camille Leban Martins

Director-screenwriter:
Mia Hansen-Løve

Running time: 112 minutes