Few directors quite hit the heart of an internal struggle like Mia Hansen-Løve. Her film Bergman Island was sneakily one of the best films of 2020. Her quiet ability to put her protagonists through mental and emotional anguish makes her stories feel remarkably human. This case proves true again for One Fine Morning, her latest feature. After releasing at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, One Fine Morning makes its wide-release debut in the US. With another phenomenal performance from Léa Seydoux, Hansen-Løve proves herself one of the best foreign directors working today.
As a single mother working as a translator, Sandra (Seydoux) already has a lot on her plate. When her father’s memory problems intensify, she must begin to care for Georg (Pascal Greggory) full-time. Her dance card gets even more crowded after she reconnects with Clement (Melvil Poupaud), a former flame. As she balances her responsibilities, she wonders if she can continue to find joy in her life.
Hansen-Løve never beats the audience with her questions. She finds ways to insert ideas into our brains with especially effective sequences. Yet her patience to build out the non-narrative moments proves her feel for storytelling is far more advanced than many of her peers. She can pull out emotion at the drop of a hat, but more importantly, she can ensure that we feel the power of these moments.
She settles into moments that have little relevance in the long game but prove exceedingly helpful in understanding our characters. A simple walk through a garden or discussion on books becomes illuminating. Hansen-Løve expertly weaves questions throughout One Fine Morning and layers the themes she wishes to convey to cross between storylines.
Seydoux once again shows off her ability to emote. Vacillating between the happiness she’s feeling for the first time in years, and the extreme sadness of her father’s deteriorating health, she keeps the character in check at all times. This is not an out-of-control woman. This woman is in tune with her emotional health and the power she wields over her family. Seydoux takes quiet moments to bring the emotion off the page, allowing her understanding of her style as a performer to shine through.
Just as integral to the success of One Fine Morning is Greggory. His heartbreaking performance leaves him in our minds across every moment. Even when Seydoux looks to find happiness, we worry that Greggory is suffering. It’s a rare trick for a story to make us feel the power of a loved one waiting out of view and in assisted care. Yet Greggory’s moments early in the film help connect us to him early, helping our empathy stick.
This time out, Hansen-Løve raises the intimacy, both literally and metaphorically on set. A shot of Seydoux leaning her head against the glass of a bus, exhausted after a long day, remains one of the very best moments of 2022 in film. We see many other moments of characters working through their problems in real time. This all works, but we also observe during acts of physical intimacy. Hansen-Løve does a marvelous job framing and blocking out these scenes, making them passionate without exposing her actors to being needlessly nude unless the moment calls for it.
Hansen-Løve strips down her cinematography and style this time around. There are no scenes quite as good as some of her scenes in Bergman Island. Yet her handle on complex emotions has never been better. Unfortunately, One Fine Morning has several scenes that overextend themselves, chipping away at the story’s power. Still, this nitpick does not prevent it from succeeding at nearly every level. Hansen-Løve continues to build on her storytelling ability and remains one of the very best in the world today.