Sandra Klenzler (Lea Seydoux) is in an in between stage in her life. Her face doesn’t show it often though, as she evinces the happiness that she feels in certain moments of her recent life. She runs into her dead husband’s friend Clement (Melvil Poupaud) and starts a relationship with him even if he already has his family. She balances those emotions with ones she feels from her family, preparing for her father Georg’s (Pascal Greggory) institutionalization.
Institutionalization sounds like a dramatic word for moving one’s parent from their apartment to several elderly care facilities, but what makes that word stick is the way Mia Hansen-Love’s Un beau matin, or One Fine Morning, shows traces of Georg’s past life. That life manifests itself through the artwork and books he owns. The walls in French homes in French films are practically bookshelves. The art direction here, again, hints at a life that one’s children and students can only keep in pieces.
I’m also leaving out an important element in Georg moving into elderly care. Hansen-Love’s screenplay explains that he was mentally sound a year before the film’s events take place, but he gets a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, making his brain deteriorate. His eyesight is also going as part of old age. Much of the film shows Sandra visiting him, catching him up on family news. But each visit becomes more difficult, as she realizes that he’s unable to see or recognize her.
The bittersweet thing about Georg and Sandra going through this hardship is that his old self still lives through her. He was a professor of German literature, she works as a translator when an English or German speaking person visits and makes speeches or lectures. There’s a beauty in the mundanity of that work. And it’s nice to see these scenes in between the dramatic ones, showing real life instead of just the highlights.
There’s a lot of things going on in Hansen-Love’s film that sometimes it does feel like it overextends on itself. This is specifically true with the Clement scenes. I suppose it’s gauche that I, of all people, have the tiniest moral objection to Sandra sleeping with a married man. The objection to the fact that it’s tropey also feels like an easy objection. There are worse ways to play this storyline out but there are better ways as well. The same goes for Sandra’s relationship with her mother Francoise (Nicole Garcia).
Nonetheless, Hansen-Love makes the arcs in her film plausible in the emotional sense. There is a relatability to a protagonist who reaches out to love someone unconventional as she feels loss looming. And Seydoux brings life to this character piece even at scenes where she walks around Paris. She imbues every step she takes with the echoes of the man she’s slowly losing. Viewers can see her eyes remember the words of a man who’ll never leave her heart.
Un beau matin comes out in Toronto and Vancouver this Friday.
- Release Date: 2/10/2023