AFI FILM FEST 2022 REVIEW! Filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve boasts an incredible track record. She’s been examining humanity in stylish, perceptive, touching ways for two decades, yet she remains France’s best-kept secret. Perhaps her latest feature, the staggering in its simplicity, endlessly stirring One Fine Morning, will right this wrong. The film could finally give her a boost to the echelons of your Dardennes and Assayas (she happens to share a daughter with the latter). So give Løve some love already.
Léa Seydoux plays Sandra, a widowed mother of a young daughter and the daughter of renowned philosophy professor Georg (Pascal Greggory). He’s slowly fading away, afflicted with a rare neurodegenerative disease called Benson’s Syndrome. Sandra does her best to take care of Georg with the help of her mom and his ex-wife Françoise (Nicole Garcia). Yet, he barely recognizes them, literally, as the disorder causes blindness, along with mental deterioration. Georg is no longer capable of living on his own; the film traces Sandra’s heartbreaking journey of finding a care home for her dad.
In the meantime, she bumps into Clément (Melvil Poupaud), an old friend she hasn’t seen in years. A passionate affair begins with one major caveat: Clément is a married dad. Nevertheless, he helps Sandra break out of the shell under which she’s been hiding since her husband’s death. Meanwhile, she helps Clément rediscover himself. But will he leave his family in order to pursue his true love? Although it may sound soap opera-ish, rest assured that Hansen-Løve sidesteps sentimentality and finds the truth in each seemingly inconsequential moment.
“…traces Sandra’s heartbreaking journey of finding a care home for her dad…”
Both storylines in One Fine Morning deal with different facets of love – the warm love for a father, a child, of family; the love of a lover, a husband; the love of life. Complex emotions boil underneath the lighthearted exterior, the filmmaker attaining the perfect balance of buoyancy, subtlety, and resonance. Hansen-Løve’s approach is almost old-school in the way she refuses to employ any cinematic flourishes or propel the narrative with high stakes, overt philosophizing, or tear-jerking. Therein lies the magic of this film. To use the old adage: they simply don’t make ’em like this anymore.
Beautifully shot in natural light by Hansen-Løve’s go-to cinematographer Denis Lenoir, One Fine Morning immerses the viewer into its evocative milieu. Indeed, the imagery is bound to strike a chord: the blurred city lights seen inside a bus, Sandra’s cramped but cozy apartment, and the claustrophobic nursing homes. The small moments matter the most – a gesture, an expression, a whispered word. There’s a scene where a couple pretends to encounter Santa to amuse the children. Another moment sees the family unable to decide what to do with Georg’s numerous books. There’s a remarkable, though all-too-brief, passage about the power of books and how they reflect our identities.
I can go on and on about the multiple tiny lightning bolts Hansen-Løve catches in her bottle. Arguably the biggest lightning she caught was hiring Seydoux. The actor, who appears in almost every shot, displays levels of poignancy and understatement previously only hinted at. You’re right there with her, feeling all the guilt and resentment and, yes, boundless love. Poupaud convinces entirely as the hunky, slightly nerdy scientist. Greggory breaks hearts, and Garcia projects world-weariness and acidic wit – but it’s Seydoux’s show all the way.
The final shot perhaps ties things together a bit too neatly. But the journey there is so nuanced, inspired, vivid, and stirring it’s a minor misstep that’s easy to disregard. With One Fine Morning, Mia Hansen-Løve proves again that she can do no wrong.
One Fine Morning screened at the 2022 AFI Fest.
"…staggering in its simplicity, endlessly stirring"
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