For her latest film One Fine Morning, Hansen-Løve observes the life of Parisian translator Sandra (Léa Seydoux) taking care of her respected academic father Georg (Pascal Greggory), who has Benson’s syndrome.
Pascal Greggory and Léa Seydoux as Georg and Sandra. Photo: MUBI
In recent years, movies have felt the weight of neurodegenerative diseases; even a novice can spot the tropes. And more than experiencing the symptoms, the characters tend to be academics or lecturers or, at the very least, well-read individuals – as if their stories are somehow more important because of how educated they are.
Hansen-Løve falls into the same cinematic cliché, with Georg being an esteemed philosophy professor surrounded by hundreds of hardbacks. But she finds original ways to show the disability at work, opening the film with Sandra guiding her father to unlock his door from the other side. Even Georg's bibliophilia is wonderfully and tragically depicted as a passion that’s absorbed by others, with Sandra saying she feels closer to her father ‘with his books than with him’.
Sandra's existence isn’t reduced to her father’s disease, but branches into decently drawn aspects of her everyday life: looking after her daughter Linn (Camille Leban Martins), talking politics with her ecologically disruptive mother (Nicole Garcia), and working as a translator in different situations from conferences to memorials.
The biggest development is the recent arrival of Clément (Melvil Poupaud), a married ‘cosmo-chemist’ with whom she embarks on a spontaneous affair – starting awkwardly before turning intensely sexual. During a family getaway, she becomes so incensed by his absence that she spells out ‘SEX’ and ‘C**K’ with Scrabble tiles.
Sandra is a curious subversion of 'the other woman': built into a nuanced, conflicted protagonist whose sexual energy has been dormant for many years. She isn't a fiery, hysterical stereotype that demands Clément divorce his wife; she has an appealing introversion. One day, when he wants to go outside with her, she stays in bed and says: ‘Making love, eating, sleeping is enough.’
Her horny and affectionate escape inevitably breaks when dealing with her father. More effective than showing a constant torrent of misery that follows family members in these emotional scenarios, Hanson-Løve shows the pain via these interruptions of happiness.
Léa Seydoux and Melvil Poupau as Sandra and Clément. Photo: MUBI
Parts of Georg’s spirit remain, but they’re confused – his worsening blindness is a key measure of how the disease is progressing. Hansen-Løve is cautious to avoid turning the film into pity porn, even having a scene with Sandra’s wheelchair-user grandmother saying outright: ‘You must show you’re there. That you’re a living person … Never accept pity.’
But as well as watching her father’s mind deteriorate, Sandra also endures the laborious process of moving Georg from care home to care home – the emotional toll triggered by almost mundane circumstances.
Léa Seydoux is gripping in her character's repression and reluctance to argue, wearing a Jean Seberg haircut and lacking much of the Hollywood glamour by which she’s better known. Compared to the weirdness of Crimes of the Future and the operatic emotions of No Time to Die, it’s refreshing to see Seydoux in Hanson-Løve’s more naturalistic environment. In this calm, quiet, and intriguing slice-of-life drama, she looks just as comfortable.
One Fine Morning will be in UK cinemas on Friday 14 April, and will be available on MUBI from Friday 16 June.
|What||One Fine Morning movie review|
14 Apr 23 – 14 Apr 24, IN CINEMAS
16 Jun 23 – 16 Jun 24, ON MUBI
|Price||£determined by cinemas|
|Website||Click here for more information|