Film & TV

French Film Festival Review: Things to Come

A philosophy lecturer’s middle class existence is upended by a series of events, forcing her to gather together enough pieces of her life to move forward.

Philosophy lecturer Nathalie Chazeaux’s (Isabelle Huppert) middle class existence is suddenly upended by a series of events. Facing total freedom for perhaps the first time in her life, Nathalie must gather together enough pieces of her life to move forward.

There’s a great deal of distance between myself and the subject of this film – the post-divorce, mid-life crisis is not something I am likely to experience for some time yet, so whenever I see this sort of story on screen I often struggle to find a way to connect with the characters. It’s not that I cannot appreciate the feelings of the characters in stories such as these, it’s that I have no intuitive response to much of the goings on. Things to Come eschews melodrama and big, loud emotions, which is, honestly, probably the better option, but for someone like me who is a long way off from the character’s experience it makes making emotional inroads difficult.

The first half of the film rumbles along in an expected matter – we are introduced to Nathalie, a former radical who has settled into a comfortable bourgeois lifestyle. We meet her husband (a taciturn Andrew Marcon), her children, her ill mother (Edith Scob), and her former student Fabien (Roman Kolinka). Combined with her career, her brief connection with the current batch of student radicals, and her stalled publishing career, all the necessary elements are in place to contextualize Nathalie’s inevitable collapse. And collapse she does – and then…

Well, to be honest, not a lot happens after that. The film’s second half is not particularly plot driven, instead presenting a series of vignettes as Nathalie deals with her life’s great changes, collecting her various pithy observations of her circumstances, and ultimately resulting in not much of anything. Wherever you believe the story is going in its second half, you’re probably wrong, as the story does not concern itself with providing any solid conclusions – it is, rather, an ongoing examination of this character’s life post-crisis, and for that, it’s acceptable. Personally, I found it a bit frustrating, but at least there was a cute cat to occupy my attention for much of the later segments.

Performances are suitable all around – characters frequently frustrate but never seem overly thin for all that, and Huppert provides a solid grounding for the stories that unfold around her. Andrew Marcon’s drip of a husband is also well-drawn, and the splintering relationship between the two provides many of the films emotional highs and lows. Roman Kolinka’s young radical is present, naïve, but not that interesting a character when all is said and done. This is definitely Huppert’s show.

Things to Come might provide a fascinating puzzle for a certain kind of viewer, but for many audiences its more subtle elements will most likely be missed, and there isn’t enough of a hook left over to satisfy. If you’d like an examination of where one goes after divorce, or have a particular interest in philosophy, consider checking it out but, if you don’t fit in to those categories, it might be difficult to get into.

Reviewed by Brendan Whittaker
Twitter: @BrendanW2

Rating out of 10:  7

Things to Come will screen again on 8, 12, 15, 17 & 21 April for the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival, which runs 30 March – 23 April 2017 exclusively at the Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas.

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