One Fine Morning
by Hope Madden
“I wait for the thing that should come and it doesn’t.”
So says Georg Kienzler (Pascal Greggory, devastating), a retired philosophy scholar deteriorating under the weight of a neurodegenerative disease. His daughter Sandra understands.
One Fine Morning tempts you to believe it’s a film about nothing in particular. Mia Hansen-Løve conjures Claire Denis or even Kelly Reichardt in her approach to settling into a rhythm of small, intimate moments that tell a deeper if less tidy story than more clearly structured films. She robs the tale of melodrama, of obvious beats, and replaces those trappings with slice-of-life poetry.
Her poem is aided immeasurably by Léa Seydoux as Sandra, a widowed mother who’s already beginning to feel the loss of her father. An affair with an old friend complicates things by satisfying her profound longing while also leaving her vulnerable during an emotionally delicate period.
There’s a lot there that begs for drama, but it’s to the film’s great benefit that Hansen-Løve chooses nuance. A low-key melancholy colors this story of a woman losing pieces of herself. The beauty in that tone is matched by the raw authenticity in Seydoux’s performance.
Though she’s proven her talent a dozen times or more, this performance is a real departure for her. It’s open and vulnerable, effortlessly conveying the raw nerve this woman has become.
What Hansen-Løve captures so beautifully is the day-to-day tragedy of losing someone bit by bit and of the flashes of understandable, even necessary selfishness. Sandra is sole parent to precocious 8-year-old Linn (Camille Leban Martins), contends with facility options for her father, and oversees the unenviable task of sorting through his belongings while he’s still living. The filmmaker approaches all of this with the natural, relatable quiet persistence, resigned laughter, or unexpected tears that mark the reality of this situation.