Earlier this month, American audiences (who were only a handful anyway) got a chance to watch Gaspar Noeamazing split drama Eddy, in which an elderly Parisian couple falls to pieces. Ten years ago, Michael Hanekemovies about many of the same things, Love, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. There was another French film about dementia at Cannes last year. It’s a brutal, though often rewarding, tendency, these movies confronting the most terrifying end-of-life possibilities with an unwavering gaze.
Talented Director Mia Hansen-Løve back to Cannes after lovely last year Bergman Island to give her take over all this fading French. Her movies, A beautiful morning, is typical of much of her earlier work, in that it is sensitive and wise and seemingly aimlessly intelligible until suddenly a unified meaning reveals itself. It’s a bittersweet sad movie, but it’s also warm and gentle enough that one leaves not with a sob but with a sigh.
Lea Seydoux plays Sandra, an interpreter and single mother living in Paris whose father, Georg (Pascal Greggory), blinded by a degenerative disease and in need of increasing care. Sandra and her father didn’t fully accept that fact, until Sandra’s mother (Nicole Garcia) convinced her that, following all the doctor’s advice, they would need to put Georg in a nursing home of some kind.
That process, all the personal pain and bureaucratic frustration, makes up nearly half of the film. There is a parallel narrative in which Sandra is romantically involved with the married Clément (Melvil Poupaud), is a friend of Sandra’s husband. (I think we’re meant to assume Sandra is a widow.) So this is the beginning of something adventurous and complex but energetic, just like elsewhere in Sandra’s life. Her passionate, intellectual father (he teaches philosophy at a university) is losing his grip on his joie de vivre.
A beautiful morning follow these themes as Sandra navigates two heartbreaks, one imminent and one all-too-possible. However, Hansen-Løve did not create a psychological work for a film. A beautiful morning filled with amusing humor about French politics, about the quirky personalities of children, about the horrifying-horrific-funny chaos of aged care facilities. The film, and Sandra, needs this lightness from time to time to make an impression, just as Sandra needs something new – all the attention of Cléments, if not believable – to draw her away from the subject. The definition of destiny is towards the slow death of parents. (And, indeed fatalism in self-contemplation.)
This is a movie about caring for others and for ourselves, as a way not only to help us fight death the best we can, but also to feel an important connection. with the fullness of our present tense. We watch as Sandra takes care of father and daughter, explaining the world to both of them, one at the beginning of their time in it, the other at the end. The fact that Sandra is an interpreter is certainly not a coincidence — her job is to clear things up for others, guiding people to understanding as she filters it through the knowledge matrix. own knowledge and experience.
When it reaches the final scene of gentle poignancy, A beautiful morning pause to savor the sensory and emotional richness of life, its sadness perhaps a necessary counterbalance to its joy. Seydoux relishes the opportunity to play such nuanced, everyday sensations. Her performance is subtly and soberly observed, negotiating subtle shifts in Sandra’s psyche. I have to imagine Seydoux would be running for Best Actress at Cannes, being her film in the main competition rather than the Fortnight Director’s sidebar.
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