Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert) is a philosophy teacher with a happy family life and thriving career. Suddenly, new challenges start to tear at Nathalie’s content existence. Her aging mother, an ex-model (Édith Scob), becomes ill. Her husband of 25 years, Heinz (André Marcon), leaves Nathalie for another woman. Plus, the fire and enthusiasm she once brought to her career starts to diminish. Nathalie tries to cope with these setbacks as she rekindles a bond with an ex-student (Roman Kolinka).
The newest film from Mia Hansen-Løve (Eden) is patient, elegant and often affecting. Much of this has to do with the casting of Huppert, an actor who often deflects expression while still offering shades of courage and humanity. It is hard to imagine Nathalie in another actor’s grasp: Huppert reveals the cracks in her character’s life in subtle, original ways.
Things to Come is a touching portrait of middle-aged malaise that deftly avoids any overwrought plotting. The authenticity of Nathalie’s journey may have much to do with a proximity to real people. The writer/director’s parents were both philosophy professors. (This is Hansen-Løve’s second film in a row to be inspired by people in her family, after Eden.) However, audiences unaccustomed to Hansen-Løve’s languid pacing could find the film dull. This is a film of small moments and character changes, and quite a lot of Things to Come relies on the protagonist reacting to conflict, rather than steering her life in one sustained direction.