The French director and screenwriter Mia Hansen-Løve is already a veteran at Cannes, where she has been nominated in various categories from her debut feature, ‘Tout est pardonné’ (“All is forgiven”), to the recent ‘Bergman’s Island ‘. The last of her films to find a place in the French festival is ‘A beautiful morning’, which follows in the footsteps of his previous films, with his traditional look focused on rescuing everyday scenes and portraying the characters in their vital stages without judgingwhich has earned him the Europa Cinemas award, intended to continue promoting his career.
In ‘A Beautiful Morning’ we follow the life of Sandra (Léa Seydoux), a young single mother who divides her time between her job as a translator, caring for her father (Pascal Greggory), who suffers from a neurodegenerative disease, and her nine-year-old daughter. years old Linn (Camille Leban Martins). Sandra is a born caretaker: she patiently endures her daughter’s reproaches and her blind father’s confusion. One afternoon, in the park, he runs into his friend Clément, a married cosmochemist with a son with whom he will begin a romantic adventure.
Seydoux’s Sandra is reminiscent of Scarlett Johansson in ‘Lost in Translation’ and could be a more adult version of Patricia in ‘At the end of the escape’. A woman without friends (although she does not affect it), who falls asleep on public transport, collapses more easily talking to strangers than to her family and finds in the ravings of his sick father his same concerns: always waiting for something to arrive, without knowing what. Watching a Hansen-Løve movie also feels a bit like that. In this one, we see a sick parent who is very different from the aggressive mother we knew in ‘El porvenir’, another edge of the prism of old age that the director portrays in her trajectory.
A random protagonist
Hansen-Love chooses her protagonists for their “imparticularity” and shows us the beauty of that random bunch that is a specific life. She presents us with the biography of a normal woman, chosen from the bunch, who It stands out precisely for its everyday nature, for not being an example to follow or being excessively memorable..
And it is that not all the characters have to fight against great forces of evil or make the decision of their lives in one hundred and twelve minutes. Some just live and if they looked back, at their memories, they would have something similar to what the filmmaker collects: a set of short scenes of many moments, some happy, some sad, some with an end, some without, that make up life. ‘A beautiful morning’ is a souvenir postcard, the brushstrokes of a life stage that, without reveling in sentimentality, has its idea clear: what remains, in the end, is love.
Sandra’s relationship with Clément shines at first. Rarely does a romantic relationship affect the daily dilemmas of an affair (leaving the house, not leaving the house?) and builds sexual intimacy in various encounters, but it loses its power by showing us an overly adolescent Sandra, codependent on Clément. In their comings and goings my desire for a happy ending to the love story tires.
I try not to judge the protagonist, remember that I am peering through a window into a concrete life, to a random life, to a woman with whom I must sympathize, even if I do not share her way of being and it is hard for me to put myself in her shoes. The truth is that she does nothing wrong as such, beyond cutting off blows and passively waiting for others (her mother, her boyfriend) to decide for her.
As much as I love seeing Léa Seydoux in a role that allows her to smile with happiness (I think the last time I saw a character of hers laugh on screen was in ‘Only the End of the World’ or if you rush me in ‘Life de Adèle’), I lack something to love her, to appreciate her life. I feel like I’m missing memories. I want to see that trip to Normandy. And also the trip through Italy. Has none of that remained in his memory? It may be, but without them this sensitive plea for love and the beauty of life in good times and bad falls a little short for me.
Then I remember the words of the mother of Sandra’s late husband, whom of course she visits from time to time. After admitting that “Sometimes it’s a little hard to live”the old woman makes it very clear that there is no need to be pitied: “You have to show that you are there. That you are. But never give pity”. And then I understand why Sandra is here, the life that she has to live and that she chooses to live and why she, of all the people, women and French in the world, stars in the filmmaker’s latest.
In the work of Hansen-Løve, the characters do not go from action to reaction, but from emotion to emotion, to emotion. His directing work is beautiful, aided by a city where it is always sunny (perhaps the most unlikely thing I find) and highlighting a parallel with the most beautiful shot of the most chilling scene in ‘Nocturnal Animals’. For those who enjoy movies that help to value everyday life, ‘A beautiful morning’ will leave them with a long memory.
One of the screenwriter’s great skills is always opting for naturalism over drama: it doesn’t complicate what doesn’t have to be complicated, like a girl meeting her mother’s boyfriend, and scenes that seem essential for the future of the plot do not reach completion. This is a hallmark of his filmography and one of my favorite things about cinema: when it counters what thousands of movies have done before.
‘A beautiful morning’ is like entering a movie theater encapsulated in time. Suddenly, you go back to a neighborhood cinema from the sixties that shows the latest from the precursors of the Nouvelle Vague. Any work by Hansen-Løve is enough to perceive the enormous influence of the filmmakers of the movement on her, being able to consider her a goddaughter of the French New Wave. In this latest feature film, he does not lose his traditional essence, that way of narrating that makes us constantly question whether each of his films is an autobiography of one of his present or past lives. But, after all, what movie is not a biography?
‘A beautiful morning’ arrives in theaters on March 31st.
The best: When the script falls into everyday comedy and seeing Léa Seydoux fully in touch with her emotions.
Worst: The comings and goings of the romantic plot become eternal, especially by omitting memories that would help build beyond desire.