Things to Come, written and directed by Mia Hansen-Love, is an excellent, moving character study that is undermined by a lack of direction and purpose in its second half.
Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert) is a philosophy high-school teacher in France. She is married with two children and is both very passionate and very good at her job. Her life starts to unravel when her husband of 25 years decides to leave her for another woman, forcing her to reinvent herself against all odds.
Things to Come does a fantastic job of fleshing out its rich cast of characters so that they feel like real people. Isabelle Huppert’s touching, committed performance at the forefront and the well-written, layered writing keep Nathalie grounded, likable and interesting.
As bad as things get for her throughout the course of the movie, none of it ever feels contrived. Even when everything that could go wrong does, the movie’s meticulous pace makes it seem like a fact of life. Any one of us can probably name at least one period of their lives when nothing seemed to be going according to plan and Things to Come perfectly captures the frustration and anxiety that can come from that.
Most people are familiar with the line “That only happens in the movies”. It’s overused, particularly in bad movies who seem to think it’s a clever joke, but when Nathalie says it at one point in Things to Come, it really does work. The movie earns the line because it sufficiently feels like we’re watching real life.
Philosophy is also a big part of the story and it’s not just some random quotes tacked on to make the movie seem profound. Whether Nathalie is talking to her class, her family or some of her former students, the discourse is always thematically linked with what’s going on around her. Things to Come also does a good job of not sounding preachy – in fact, it articulates and respects several different viewpoints quite well.
Mia Hansen-Love’s first priority seems to have been to make all characters well defined in their personalities and ideologies and that precise characterization is easily Things to Come’s biggest strength.
The main problem with it is that it really starts starts to drag in its second half. There are still a lot of good scenes, but there’s no real sense of momentum – the movie just keeps going until it stops. It felt less like a satisfying resolution and more like the movie had simply run out of steam. That being, there’s certainly some closure to be had in the final scenes.
While flawed, Things to Come is still a worthwhile watch mainly because of its endearing, well-rounded main character.
Dir: Mia Hansen-Love
Scr: Mia Hansen-Love
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, André Marcon, Roman Kolinka
Prd: Rémi Burah, Fabian Gasmia, Charles Gillibert
DOP: Denis Lenoir
Runtime: 100 min
Things to Come has its UK Premiere at Opening Night of Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House – 4th August and is out in cinemas 2nd September