Things to Come
An intimate drama featuring a standout performance by the incomparable Isabelle Huppert.
April 28, 2017
It took 45 years as an actress and 122 credits on her resume for Isabelle Huppert to receive an Oscar nomination, earning the long-overdue nod for her work in the rape-revenge thriller Elle. But the French star is just as deserving of awards and acclaim for her turn in the intimate drama Things to Come. The same matter-of-fact determination shines through in both performances, and yet you'd never mistake one for the other. Part of Huppert's genius is the way every character she plays feels united by a shared humanity, but still utterly distinctive in their traits, and in the way she brings them to life.
That's Things to Come's Nathalie Chazeaux in a nutshell. Huppert's protagonist may well make you think of your mother — in fact, writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve wrote the role for Huppert with her own mum loosely in mind. Still, for every aspect that's recognisable, just as many remain unique. A philosophy professor, she's wading through a spate of familiar situations as the years pass by. Her husband decides to leave after a quarter of a century together; her mother requires more of her attention while her kids need less; a cat she doesn't want scampers around; and her professional dealings don't always go as planned.
Even if you've never been a just-past-middle-age woman dealing with all of the above, Huppert will ensure you forget that for 102 minutes. Hers is such a fine-tuned and thoughtful performance, one that so effortlessly brings the film's universal themes to the fore, that you'll soon be doing just what her character is doing. No, you won't be quoting renowned thinkers and imparting wisdom to students. Rather, you'll be facing a stark truth about the future: it keeps coming, whether things are changing drastically, or seem to be staying the same.
Hansen-Løve isn't one for big revelations and realisations, however. She gets to the heart of what it means to be happy and successful, or to try to be, without filling Things to Come with the kinds of huge moments, altercations and declarations that often find a place on screen. It's the same feat that she achieved with her last film, the Paris-set, electronic music-infused Eden. Daft Punk doesn't show up this time, but both movies convey more than you might expect about navigating the ups and downs of everyday existence by focusing on the minutiae that we all wade through.
Indeed, the writer-director's sensitive observational style lends itself to lingering on the details — to building a picture from the smallest elements, rather than the broadest strokes. It's what makes Huppert such a perfect fit, and it's also what makes the filmmaker's patient approach so rewarding. Every close-up of Huppert's face tells a story. Every handheld camera movement does as well. They're small, unobtrusive and delicate ways of painting an involving portrait of life going on, and of all the things that will come.