12 – 98mins – 2016
LØVE AND FRIENDSHIP
“I thought you’d love me forever. I’m a goddamn idiot.”
Released in its native France as L’Avenir, this naturalistic drama from young director Mia Hansen-Løve drew rave reviews and award success for its wry humanity and Isabelle Huppert’s performance as Nathalie Chazeaux, a philosophy teacher who amidst juggling her career, home live and looking after her depressed and ailing mother (Édith Scob), is left by her husband (André Marcon) for another woman.
But while many have praised the film’s compassionate portrait, I was left largely unmoved by its deficiency of emotional depth. “I’m taking it very well,” remarks a nonchalant Nathalie, even after a creepy cinema stalker follows her home one evening and launches at her for an illicit kiss. I found our lead protagonist’s sombre and stalwart characterisation distancing rather than relatable.
While publishers discuss how to make her textbook “more attractive and less austere,” I kept wishing Nathalie could receive a similar makeover, but even after the crushing double-blow of her marriage breakdown and her mother’s passing, she still plodded along with scarcely a tear or two to demonstrate her softer side.
While I was fond of Hansen-Løve’s lethargic and contemplative tone, there was a tendency to favour philosophical discourses and intellectual debates on Rousseau and phantasmagoria over meaningful character study. Although the film takes place over a number of years, come the end credits I found Nathalie had progressed very little in her pursuit for liberation and contentment. “Has anyone noticed anything different?” she asks her children in the final scene, a tragically ironic quote for Things to Come to close on.
CR@B’s Claw Score: