Starring Isabelle Huppert, although Pandora the naughty cat steals every scene she’s in.
In Things to Come, life tests a philosophy professor on the very same subject she teaches. For Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert) — who has two grown-up children, a husband of 25 years, and a recurring publishing contract — the future isn’t something she gives much thought, because she assumes it’ll be more of the same. When her students protest against a law to raise the pension age, this middle-aged ex-anarchist can’t bring herself to engage with their apparently far-sighted cause; unlike them, all she can think about is the present. But then a series of events overturn her life as she knew it and she finds herself, at middle age, staring at a blank slate.
This is a movie about our surprising ability to deal with disaster — the instincts that emerge when we least expect them to. What’s more, it’s about the insistence of life to keep on going no matter how difficult a period you’re experiencing — something that might initially seem cruel but that is, actually, your salvation. The film’s academic characters and philosophical preoccupations never feel esoteric, because Hansen-Løve’s gentle, intelligent filmmaking puts people at its center, exploring human resilience not through stuffy theory but an intimate study of someone coming to terms with a freedom she never asked for.
Huppert gives a brilliant performance here, but what really lingers long after the credits have rolled is just how perfectly Hansen-Løve captures bittersweet truths about life. Along with her ability to convey what it’s like to have your complacency exploded in a second by twists of fate, the director also reproduces a sense of the surprising farcicality of life, something we paradoxically tend to become attuned to only during difficult moments. One such example is that this traumatic period in Nathalie’s life mostly takes place during a gorgeous summer in Paris, a wry juxtaposition that only underscores the guiding motif of Hansen-Løve's movies: that life will go on around you.
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