Intelligent and gentle bittersweet relationship drama
- One Fine Morning review by PD
This one's a fairly predictable, bittersweet relationship drama - with perhaps a little too much 'soap opera' at times - but as with many facets of Mia Hansen-Løve's filmmaking, there’s an intelligence, a sadness, a more literary undertow to its seeming simplicity. “Un beau matin” in French, the title is lifted from a haunting poem by poetic realist Jacques Prévert, which describes the conflict of facing absence in your life, all while pretending there’s literally nothing there. At no cost to its calm, loping pace, the film is about many things at once: separate personal crises alternately surge and recede over the course of a year, given equal prominence in the script’s loose one-day-at-a-time structure. It’s a welcome change of pace for the ubiquitous Léa Seydoux, recently seen on screen as almost everything but an ordinary woman, and projecting here a warm sense of human wear and tear that we too rarely get to see from her. De-glammed inasmuch as it’s possible to deglam her — with minimal makeup, a short, practical hairdo and an oft-recycled wardrobe of slouchy floral dresses, she’s casually chic in the manner of someone you might plausibly know — Seydoux plays Sandra, a bright, independent, long-single mother with a freelance translating career that just about pays the rent of the teeny apartment she shares in Paris with her eight-year-old daughter Linn. We meet her en route to another cosy Parisian shoebox, this one belonging to her father Georg, a former philosophy professor who has almost totally lost his sight — one consequence of the neurodegenerative disorder Benson’s syndrome, which is gradually claiming his mind and memory too. No longer able to live independently, he and his family are thus thrust into the administrative nightmare of the national care home system, barely able to secure him a room of his own amid a logistical tangle of waiting lists and exorbitant fees. With Sandra stretched even thinner than usual, anxiously fretting over all aspects of her father’s situation, it’s an awkward time for a complicated new relationship to present itself, but life being what it is, that’s exactly what happens. Enter charming 'cosmo-chemist' Clement, and thus to Sandra's reawakened need for intimacy. In dramatising these two chaotic factors in Sandra’s life, Hansen-Løve is at pains to avoid tidy, swelling arcs and grand narrative collisions. Instead, the film accrues subtle power through repetition, as characters put themselves through the same banal ordeals again and again hoping for different outcomes: as the increasingly disoriented Georg is shuffled from one unsuitable facility to another, losing his bearings a little more each time, Sandra and Clement repeatedly attempt to forge new romance without disrupting the status quo. In both cases, the concept of home — not just a place to live, but the companions and care that anchor life itself — is held as precious and elusive. The director hardly stretches herself here, but enjoyable viewing nevertheless.
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A powerfully acted love & dealing with family illness story with a major failing...
- One Fine Morning review by TB
After winning the Best European Film award at the Cannes film festival, 5 star reviews in film publications like Empire and finally starring Léa Seydoux, who I think is a sensational actress, I put this on my rental list. I had high hopes, especially after reading the synopsis, however despite a lot of excellent things about this film, it also has one massive problem...
Seydoux stars as Sandra, the daughter of a well-regarded & beloved former philosophy teacher. Her father has a degenerative disease similar to Alzheimer's, and as the film starts, the help that Sandra is initially providing to him is not enough for his needs. She, along with the other members of her family, as well as her father's friends, move him into the care sector, having to deal with all the emotions that brings. At the same time, she reconnects with Clément, a close friend of her deceased husband. This then turns into an affair which Sandra hopes becomes something more.
Despite my criticism of one element of it, there is much to love here. Seydoux is exceptional, proving once again why she is such an incredible actress. The emotional journey we go through with Sandra is at times heartbreaking. The extremely carefully handled & sensitive scenes of her helping her father as his disease worsens are profoundly moving, especially as I have a parent with Alzheimer's & have experienced many of the situations shown. This also extends to the quiet moments after Sandra has left her father and is in quiet or emotional contemplation.
The production of the film is also excellent, with a soft pallet, bright colours & good locations. The director is low-key & unfussy, with scenes allowing the actors to act & the story to unfold at a gentle pace.
However, this film has a major failing which actually detracted from the viewing for me. We are told that there is a burning love & desire between Sandra & Clément: the trauma for her losing her husband & leaving her to raise their daughter alone; the upset for him that his marriage is failing, along with the unrequited love he clearly had & has for Sandra. And the film builds on this very effectively for the first 30 minutes or so.
But then, we never (aside from a 10 second interlude much later on in the film,) actually see any of the passion that they have shown to us as the audience. There is the start of some type of intimacy, then it immediately cuts to afterwards, when a few words are said and then the next scene starts. And when you compare that to the care & love shown by Sandra towards her father (which the narrative beautifully does, in rich detail,) the film then becomes quite one sided. Having spent the first section getting to know Sandra & seeing her life, to have one of the most important elements which the film is saying to us profoundly affects her not shown leaves the narrative quite rudderless.
What makes this even more prevalent for me is that Seydoux is an actress who, with Blue is the Warmest Colour, has shown how powerfully she can act in those types of scenes. It is almost like the writer/director had an idea of what they wanted to do, but then decided to tone that down, in effect hamstringing one of the central story themes.
I did enjoy the film, plus it is easy, if slightly sad viewing. But I just feel that it could have been so much more if the romance element of it was properly explored.
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