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A woman cares for her ailing father while having an affair with a married man.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Mia Hansen-Løve

Starring: Léa Seydoux, Melvil Poupaud, Pascal Greggory, Nicole Garcia, Camille Leban Martins

One Fine Morning poster

There's a brutally honest moment of human fragility near the end of writer/director Mia Hansen-Løve's One Fine Morning. After saying goodbye to her senile and sightless father on a visit to the depressingly utilitarian care home where he now resides, our protagonist, Léa Seydoux's Sandra, is waiting for an elevator when her old man, Pascal Greggory's Georg, wanders out of his room and down the corridor towards her, calling out the name of his lover, Leila (Fejria Deliba). Sandra could be a dutiful daughter and walk her father back to his room, going through the process of bidding him farewell all over again, but instead she pretends not to notice him and enters the lift.

One Fine Morning review

Out of context it could be viewed as a scene of immense cruelty, but we've spent so much time with Sandra by that point that we fully understand her actions. Sometimes saying goodbye is so painful that you simply can't repeat it. This is especially so in the case of an elderly parent whose time on this Earth is, you suspect, limited, as is the case with Georg, once a lively professor, now a decaying shell housing a rapidly disappearing soul.

With her latest drama, Hansen-Løve explores a truth that's rarely been addressed in cinema before. It's the idea that we begin the grieving process not after our loved ones pass away, but often well before their light finally burns out. That's particularly the case if you have a parent suffering from a chronic condition. The person who raised you begins to disappear long before they actually pass away, and one of the hardest things can be not knowing how long they have left, leaving a question mark at the end of every goodbye.

One Fine Morning review

Just to make matters worse for herself, Sandra, a widowed mother of a young girl, Linn (Camille Leban Martins), is having an affair with a married man, Clément (Melvil Poupaud). Like so many in such a scenario, he claims that he'll leave his wife for Sandra but never seems to be able to pull the trigger. This leaves Sandra wondering if he'll ever return each time she bids him goodbye. It's a mirror of the situation with her father. The two men Sandra loves could vanish from her life at any moment.

Seydoux tangibly conveys the feelings of a woman who needs to be strong for both her father and her daughter, who doesn't have the luxury of being able to curl up in bed for a few hours and cry her eyes out. There are moments when she breaks down in public, disrupting a conference where she's working as a translator and fleeing from one of her father's former students, whose praise for him is too much for Sandra to bear. But mostly she's forced to hold herself together. There's a palpable sadness in Seydoux's eyes throughout, even in Sandra's happier moments (there's a truly joyous Christmas scene that will move even the most rigid of atheists), because they're so loaded with uncertainty. Having lost her husband, she's haunted by the thought of further abandonment.

One Fine Morning review

I have to confess I've struggled to relate to much of Hansen-Løve's work, save for Eden, because like the protagonist of that movie I was once a DJ who had to eventually quit doing the thing that brought me the most joy. Much of this is down to the very middle class milieu her characters reside in. You're not going to see Hansen-Løve make a movie about a car plant worker who comes home every evening, cracks open a beer, puts his feet up in front of the telly and promptly falls asleep. Her protagonists are usually glamorous women whose job is to translate some Austrian philosopher's work into French, and they always seem to live in Parisian apartments that should be well out of their pay-grade. But with One Fine Morning she's made a movie on a universal theme. Whether your job is to affix rivets to car doors or restore archaic texts, whether you live in Neuilly-sur-Seine or the banlieues, love and death will get you in the end, or perhaps as One Fine Morning suggests, even sooner.

One Fine Morning
 is on UK/ROI VOD now.

2023 movie reviews