'A sun-soaked family outing to the steps of the Sacre Coeur'FERNANDO LOSADA RODRÍGUEZ ON WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Whenever I think back upon the past year in cinema, my mind returns to the image of a young woman bursting onto a half-empty dance floor, singing along, as if her life depended on it, to that quintessential anthem of the heartbroken young lover, The Winner Takes It All. It sounds unremarkable – but, in Bergman Island, it becomes the unlikely backdrop for a deeply moving moment of personal epiphany. To successfully thread the needle between the prosaic and the poetic is a tricky undertaking; but such is the celluloid magic of Mia Hansen-Løve, a director perhaps unparalleled in today’s cinematic landscape in her capacity to find quiet beauty in the banality of everyday experience.

“To successfully thread the needle between the prosaic and the poetic is a tricky undertaking”

Nowhere has this been more true than in her latest offering, the stubbornly slight but acutely touching One Fine Morning. Léa Seydoux stars as Sandra, a widowed young mother living in Paris and caught at something of a personal impasse. Her life seems constantly at risk of buckling under the weight of its competing priorities; taking care of her precocious eight-year old daughter, holding up a demanding job as a translator and, hardest of all, attempting to find residence in a care-home for her ailing father, Georg (Pascal Greggory), whose mind is slowly wasting away at the hands of a rare neurodegenerative disease. As a chance encounter with a now-married old flame (Melvil Poupaud) develops into a passionate affair, so unfolds a poignant rumination on the intersections of love and loss, told, in typical Hansen-Løve style, with a sharp eye for aesthetic detail and emotional realism.

The film’s semi-autobiographical underpinnings allow many of its sequences to feel truly (and devastatingly) lived-in; Hansen Løve’s own father, like Georg a philosophy professor, also suffered from the same disease as her fictional patriarch. Sandra’s relationship with the man she has known all her life is a complex, often contradictory one; even as she admits to feeling embarrassed at the thought of having to help him use the loo (“Make the most of being together”, a nurse gently admonishes her), she cannot seem to bear the idea of throwing out any of her father’s vast collection of books. “He didn’t even write them!”, her eccentric mother – and Georg’s very much ex-wife – reminds her, only for Sandra to quietly respond; “Yes, but he chose them”. The desperation to hold on to (if only the memory of) a loved one fast slipping from one’s grip (“It’s like he’s constantly… drowning”) seems only to confirm a tragic reality with which Hansen-Løve is likely more familiar than most; Georg is not going to get any better, and they’re in for a long goodbye.


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As her father proves a source of (perhaps inevitable) pain in the very constancy of his presence, Sandra’s lover Clément is only sporadically supportive, torn between his desire to begin a new life with her and his commitment to his wife and son. If their affair seems constantly on the edge of becoming a case of ‘right place, wrong time’, its fluctuations rarely feel narratively repetitious, grounded by the understated ease of both performances. It’s the role of a lifetime for the always impressive Seydoux, demanding unenviable attention and control. Sandra’s emotions are, after all, seldom allowed to boil over; and, even when they do, they must be quickly contained – life simply moves too fast and asks too much for her to lose her footing.

If One Fine Morning is, at points, a difficult watch, it’s perhaps surprising, then, that one comes away best remembering its moments of joy; the sight of two new lovers playfully chasing each other through a maze of hedgerows, a memorable ‘visit’ from Father Christmas, or a sun-soaked family outing to the steps of the Sacre Coeur. “It’s a bit difficult at times, living”, one character casually notes; but, as ever in the work of Mia Hansen-Løve, there is solace to be found even in the hardest of times, and, wherever there is life, there is always love.

One Fine Morning is in cinemas now and streaming on MUBI from June 16th.