NYFF Film Review: ‘Things to Come’ Is Straightforward but Not Particularly Compelling

thingstocome2016 NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL: Honest and real, Mia Hansen-Løve‘s look into the life of a woman whose world comes crashing down is at times compelling and provocative. Anchored by a strong leading turn from Isabelle Huppert, “Things to Come” is an ultimately satisfying examination, even if it slugs through its own narrative. Hansen-Løve focuses on the little moments, intricate and true, building a character that the audience can nearly empathize with.  

“Things to Come” tells the story of a philosophy teacher named Nathalie (Huppert), who soldiers through the death of her mother, getting fired from her job, and dealing with a husband who is cheating on her.

Low-key and quietly absorbing, Huppert is a tremendous gift to cinema. She sits comfortably and firmly into Nathalie with a familiarity and a singular touch. Her interaction with all that surround her feels authentic. Roman Kolinka, who plays the suave and sophisticated Fabien, a former student, is one of the film’s other bright spots. He slivers through his scenes with a sense of mystery, holding his own next to Huppert like a true professional. As Nathalie’s ailing mother, Edith Scob‘s witty humor is a breath of fresh air.

things-to-come-2016-006-isabelle-huppert-edith-scob-aside-doorway-originalHansen-Løve’s dedication to the story is admirable. She taps into an irregular beat that most filmmakers don’t explore in character studies such as this. However, moments after the credits roll, you can’t help but struggle to remember many of the events you just witnessed. Competent filmmaking and writing can only get you so far in a tale where the main character is struggling to find themselves. The viewer has to want to walk the journey with them. The sense of loss is felt in scenes where Nathalie is desperately trying to find her mother’s cat, or when she’s like a tornado going through her bookshelf when her husband moves out. It’s unsure if we truly love her because we feel we’re supposed to, or if it’s because we want to.

It’d be interesting to see what Hansen-Løve could achieve in more compelling material. She has a crafty eye for the reel that cinema has been aching for. She knows how to build the person, brick by brick, but in walking them through the world that she creates, there’s still much to be desired. There are a few key areas left unexplored that surely the viewer would have loved to know.

“Things to Come” may not excite the most audacious of Huppert fanatics, but it’s a sweet and endearing introduction into Hansen-Løve’s repertoire. A final shot in the end will have the wheels in your head turning.

“Things to Come” is distributed by Sundance Selects and will open in limited release on Dec. 2.

GRADE: (★★½)