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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2022 11:11 am 
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MIA HANSEN-LØVE: ONE FINE MORNING (2022) - NYFF

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MELVIL POUPAUD, CAMILLE LEBAN MARTINS, LÉA SEYDOUX IN ONE FINE DAY

Joys and sorrows of life on life's terms

Mia Hansen-Love's new film certainly is a return to form after several that were harder to understand and lacked the direct emotional impact of her best work. This one doesn't have the before and after structure of All Is Forgiven (2007), The Father of My Children (2009), and Things to Come (2016), three of her great ones, but instead seems to plod along, weaving its way through joys and sorrows toward a quietly bittersweet finale. It's a weepy (I guess), a bit on the soap-melodrama side - but executed with such sincerity, specificity and class that you're with it every step of the way. Three of the finest and most appealing French movie actors star, with the young Camille Leban Martins as the child of one very well carrying her own. (I forgot a fourth French big name, Nicole Garcia, a tad too brittle fo my taste but adding a leavening touch that way.)

Léa Seydoux and Melvil Poupaud are at their least glamorous and never better. They are friends who start meeting up when Sandra (Seydoux), an interpreter of English and German into French for conferences whose husband died five years ago and who has had no intimacy in her life since then. She is raising her young daughter on her own, and is now beginning to cope with the tragic decline of her philosophy professor father, Georg Kienzler (Pascal Greggory, also deglamorized and very fine). Georg has been diagnosed with Benson’s syndrome, a neurodegenerative disease - a tragic mystery about which we are going to learn, by indirection, quite a lot. There is a vivid lesson in the stage he's at very early when Sandrda comes to visit him and he has great difficulty finding and opening the door to let her in.

Françoise (Garcia), Georg's ex-wife, selflessly and with no fuss takes the lead in the long struggle to arrange for Georg to get into satisfactory care, as he is shunted to other facilities and they get him finally into a nice one (right in Montmartre!). Hansen-Love's skill here, through the specificity of all this, is to steer a path, avoiding the sentimentality or manipulative brutality or the cliché movies often fall into in dealing with such situations.

Into this situation, fairly early on, comes a friend of Sandra's whom she runs into and starts hanging out with. He is Clément (Poupaud), more of an acquaintance, really, since he takes time explaining his glamorously oddball scientific specialty to her: cosmocchemistry. Studying stardust is more or less what he does. Again Hansen-Love in her script is being specific. He's not an astrophysicist, just as Georg doesn't have Alzheimer's. (Bensen's Disease is something that affects the sight and the motor control first, and only later develops dementia-like symptoms. It can attack people earlier than dementia usually does.) Meanwhile of course Sandra is coping with, and enjoying, LInn (Leban Martins), who's around nine, and takes fencing lessons at a big studio - but the toughness that implies doesn't keep her from being a sad, pouting little girl when Sandra arrives late to pick her up at the class, a moment that highlights Linn's complexity. She is strong and wants to have fun. But she has the sensitivity of a child who's missing a father.

It turns out pretty soon that Sandra and Clément are strongly attracted to each other. After a few passionate kisses they start having voracious sex. He is married and has a young son, but he's told Sandra the marriage has no love in it. But this part of the story is also very specific and complicated because he feels tied to his wife and son, responsibility visibly conflicting with need. With Sandra it's different, because after five years of celibacy and loneliness, for her it's pure need.

This creates a back-and-forth that dominates the action, along with the ongoing situation with Georg, the constant subtly devastating moments where Georg can or can't communicate or cope when Sandra sees him. There is the important subplot of Georg's books, a rich collection Françoise and Sandra and other family members have the sad task of dispersing. Sandra has to admit that the books now embody more of Georg for her than the shell Georg himself is becoming. It's a brilliant objective correlative of what it's like to experience a family member's neurodegenerative decline.

All this relates to Florian Zeller's much-admired film, from his play, of The Father, though Hansen-Love juggles more complexity here and does not attempt to put us into the point of view of the aging patient asThe Father does. The main point of view is Sandra's. Her situation - five years of relatively empty serving of others - haas its correlative in her job of translating what other people say, often things that are not particularly interesting, rather than speaking on her own. She buries herself in the sexual passion of her affair with Clément, a tremendous outlet and comfort for her all of a sudden. She becomes very angry when he pulls away. But he's not being judged harshly. No one is being immoral or weak here - not even the staff at the not-very-good nursing homes Georg passes through.

But that's tainted by Clément's guilt and uncertainty. He's just as needy, just as passionate. He keeps starting and stopping the affair because he feels it's hurtful and wrong for his wife, to whom he reveals it. But he loves Sandra now, as she loves him. As mentioned, this has strong soap-melodrama elements. It's just so wonderfully specific and real and intelligent, and so well cast and well acted, that it transcends the genres of weepy and fraught rom-com, by dialing both genres up to the maximum and seamlessly melding them together.

This certainly competes with Hansen-Love's best work. I can't quite agree that it's sublime, or her best, as several prominent reviewers have said; but all reviews say it's very, very good, and they're right. It also takes on hard stuff with a fierceness and intelligence that put this filmmaker at a new level at the top of the game. A measure of One Fine Day is how well Linn's thread is handled throughout, the warmth of her response to Clément (and the psychosomatic ailment she develops when he pulls away): she leaves a strong impression. And this film leaves you with plenty to feel and think about.

One Fine Morning/Un beau matin, 112 mins., debuted at Cannes in the Directors' Fortnight section on May 20, 2022. It has been in other festivals including Sydney, Jerusalem, Beijing, Telluride, and Toronto. It was screened for this review as part of the Mill Valley Film Festival (Oct. 6-16, 2022). French theatrical release Oct. 5, 2022. The US distributor is Sony. US release Dec. 9, 2022. Metacritic rating: 86%. The French review average isn't as high: AlloCiné press rating 3.7 (74%).

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