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Film Review: “One Fine Morning”

Feb 4, 2023

Premiering in the Directors’ Fortnight section of the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, Mia Hansen-Løve’s One Fine Morning (Un beau matin in other territories) hits theaters this weekend. The award-winning romantic drama features Léa Seydoux as Sandra Kienzler, an exceptionally bright interpreter raising a daughter, Linn (Camille Leban Martins), alone in Paris.

Hansen-Løve’s story focuses on Sandra’s domestic and living situations but does not dwell on those aspects – they become a fabric of this beautifully told story. Sandra’s father, Georg (Pascal Greggory), has taken ill but is still independent when we first meet him. Interestingly, Hansen-Love introduces us to Georg through a closed, locked door where he struggles to find the locks to let Sandra in. The visuals suggest a gulf between father and daughter, which plays out in Sandra’s increasing frustration with her father and her own life.

It would be careless to characterize Sandra as being aimless; she is not that. Instead, the story suggests such distress in her personal life that Seydoux‘s performance borders on the verge of dropping into aimlessness. Perhaps wayward is a better description. Yes, there is love for Linn and her responsibilities as a parent are pronounced while reluctantly balancing her duties to her debilitated stubborn father. Greggory’s own performance as Georg is complex – a former lecturer, his life was buried in a treasure of books that line shelves in his flat, which he could no longer see. Yet, the character was full of a furtive personality that more than compensated for his debilitation. Hansen-Løve focuses on the French social system’s effects on those who’ve become debilitated and without money, which Sandra doesn’t have. Her broken family isn’t as quick to come to Georg’s aid, leaving most of the stress on Sandra.

What Sandra needs she finds in Clément, played by Melvil Poupaud. A former flame whose own relationship is on the rocks, they seek comfort within each other. For a time, this satisfies Sandra, but her own experiences guide the flow of the rekindled relationship. Hansen-Løve doesn’t stretch the credibility of the relationship between Sandra and Clément. It folds the struggles Sandra experienced with her parents’ crumbled relationship as a guide and her own fierce independence.

One Fine Morning’s grounding is firmly sewn within Seydoux’s performance and on the strength of the character as written. She is very modern, aware of her limitations even if those limitations give way to frustration, either with family or trying to pursue something that might never happen. Hansen-Løve tacitly reminds us that we all need love – parentally or maternally.

Poupaud’s performance as Clément is played in a grounded manner, balancing the character with Sandra’s personal struggles; the story never relents on the idea that we have an intrinsic need for one another – whether it’s a quick fling, a shoulder to cry on or more extended, long term support. Bitterness permeates each of the relationships until our walls are broken down.

Martins’ performance as the precocious Linn holds Sandra’s heart but also stresses the importance of their relationship and Clément’s influence on them. Seydoux and Martins are playful with each other, yet there’s also a definitive line between their personalities that Linn tests several times.

Paris is as much a character as the humans that inhabit the screen. Denis Lenoir’s cinematography captures the brightly sunlit Paris days as it makes the struggling infrastructure surrounding them a stunning contrast for the characters to inhabit. Similarly, Marion Monnier’s editing crafts a carefully woven story that doesn’t reveal its hand in a fast-paced way – One Fine Morning is exceptionally nuanced, allowing Sandra’s story to unfold naturalistically.

I keep returning to Mia Hansen-Løve’s direction and script, coupled with Léa Seydoux’s masterfully transcendent performance; we feel the character’s struggles in the performance, and it carries a vibrantly told story of family and romance.

It is indeed Oner Fine Morning.

 

One Fine Morning (Un beau matin)

Written and Directed by Mia Hansen-Løve

Starring Léa Seydoux, Pascal Greggory, Melvil Poupaud, Fejria Deliba, Camille Laban Martins, Sarah Le Picard, Pierre Meunier

 

 

R, 112 minutes, Sony Pictures Classics/Mubi

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