One Fine Morning review – lovely, subtle drama about both sides of life
Mia Hansen-Løve changes lanes for a deceptively light romance about a woman, played by Léa Seydoux, dealing with love and loss
As a filmmaker who readily blends situations and events from her own life into her fiction, the French writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve has now taken the subject of her father’s dementia as inspiration for the interestingly divided drama One Fine Morning, which plays out, unusually, in tandem with a very French love story about a man who enters a woman’s life just as another is leaving.
Léa Seydoux is Sandra, a thirty-something translator based in Paris, existing but not really “living.” Following the death of her husband years earlier, she finds purpose in being a devoted mother to her young daughter (Camille Leban Martins), but has shut down romantically – a notion supposedly hinted at by Seydoux's short, functional haircut. Sandra's life is further complicated by her father's worsening Benson’s syndrome diagnosis (an excellent performance by Pascal Greggory), meaning the former professor, now losing his sight and vocabulary, must make the transition from his meticulous, book-lined apartment to the sterile halls of a care home.
But then Sandra re-meets Clément (Melvil Poupaud), a handsome, married “cosmo-chemist,” whom has the unexpected ability to make her see herself as a sexual being again. What happens next is almost the stuff of French film parody (but not in a bad way), as they fall into a relationship that is at first exhilarating and easy, but eventually complicated; Sandra initially refers to herself playfully as his mistress, and later with resentment. She wants commitment. Clément can't give it to her. How they work through this dilemma is never heightened by way of melodrama, though; instead it's left to play out with a refreshingly natural air, in the spaces between the often mundane inevitabilities of real life, because what choice do they have?
One Fine Morning, at least initially, doesn't appear to bear the same level of emotional depth or formal ambition as displayed in Mia Hansen-Løve's previous works, though I suspect following the creative enquiries of her meta-romance Bergman Island, that's by design – something of a palette cleanser. To call this an “accessible Hansen-Løve film,” then, isn't a slight as much as a desire to explain how gently this story unravels, its narrative beats never surging, but quietly washing over the viewer, no dramatic moment forced in the way that cinema so often demands.
The change of pace looks good on Hansen-Løve, because her competence as a filmmaker is never in question. Here her camera lovingly and generously captures these people and the places they live and work. In cinematographer Denis Lenoir's hands, light streams through Parisian apartment windows, while the gentle, affectionate score guides the melancholy, yet hopeful, mood. Despite the conflicts at the heart of the film, this is plainly, aesthetically, a nice space to inhabit. And, of course, the camera loves Seydoux.
Films are often labelled “tone-confused” when they bounce between places that feel discordant with one another. But One Fine Morning understands that life is not so easily slotted into a single “genre,” but perpetually moving in and out of different moods and feelings. That's why, upon closer inspection (or perhaps with a bit of distance), the dual storylines here make perfect sense as adjacent plot devices. It's a movie that, in the moment, has an almost underwhelming, even throwaway quality, yet its breezy exterior conceals deeper musings on how it feels to simultaneously navigate the ups and downs of life.
One Fine Morning was screened as part of the Cannes Film Festival 2022. It is released in UK cinemas on 14 April.Where to watch