Mia Hansen-Løve has, by now, established a very specific tone as a writer-director: calm, visually unobtrusive, attuned to emotional undercurrent. After the wheel-spinning Bergman Island in 2021, this swiftly emerging follow-up finds her on much more robust form, although her touch remains as light as ever.
Léa Seydoux stars as Sandra, a translator and interpreter in Paris. A young widow and mother to an eight-year-old daughter, she is herself daughter to Georg (Pascal Greggory), a former philosophy teacher who is now losing both sight and cognitive ability as a result of Benson’s Syndrome. At the same time as Sandra is reckoning with the deterioration of her father, she begins an affair with Clément (Melvil Poupaud), a married cosmochemist who has recently returned from an expedition to the North Pole. =It’s to Hansen-Løve’s credit that, while the professions of these three very bourgeois characters positively ripple with Big Metaphor potential, it is never belaboured. Instead, we witness Sandra’s counterpointed experiences of tentative romance and imminent bereavement – the seemingly oppositional forces of grief and rebirth eventually coming together in quietly affecting fashion.
After memorable recent turns in Bruno Dumont’s France and David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future, it’s briefly disconcerting to see Seydoux without her customary exoticism and hauteur. She is very affecting in this role, though – humane, watchful, guarded but open. There is a genuine hum of possibility to her romance with Clément, but also an ambivalence.
While the events of One Fine Morning are notionally small-scale, it is quietly riveting to watch its heroine not only live through them, but think through them. If Sandra – like any of us – cannot ultimately navigate the vagaries of family, love and death through thought alone, Hansen-Løve’s film nevertheless makes a persuasive counter-argument to the facile convention that ‘idea’ and ‘emotion’ are antithetical on-screen.
Words: David Turpin
One Fine Morning
Director: Mia Hansen-Løve
Talent: Léa Seydoux, Pascal Greggory, Melvil Poupaud
Release Date: April 14