Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. France/Germany, 2016. CG Cinéma, Detailfilm, Arte France Cinema, Rhone-Alpes Cinema, Canal+, Cofinova 12, Cinémage 10, Soficinéma 11 Développement, Centre National De La Cinematographie, Arte France, Filmforderungsanstalt, Procirep. Screenplay by Mia Hansen-Love. Cinematography by Denis Lenoir. Produced by Charles Gillibert. Production Design by Anna Falgueres. Costume Design by Rachel Raoult. Film Editing by Marion Monnier. New York Film Critics Awards 2016. Toronto International Film Festival 2016.
The assumption is that the life of a philosophy professor is a dull one, a lot of reading and hypothetical arguments with students; the instructor at the heart of Mia Hansen-Love’s intelligent and affecting drama, played with delicate intelligence by a riveting Isabelle Huppert, has experiences that are anything but isolating or dull. First, there’s student unrest at her campus being performed by young students disingenuously thinking themselves inheritors of the activists of May ’68, the fact that the academic publishing world doesn’t feel her past work sexy enough to keep in print, her emotionally unstable mother (Edith Scob) is falling apart, and to top it all off, her husband (André Marcon) tells her that he has found happiness with another woman and is leaving her. The consistency in her life, oddly enough, is a former student/protege (Roman Kolinka, grandson of Jean-Louis Trintignant) with whom she reconnects before he moves to a farm in the mountains and begins a commune with his friends; during the times of upheaval she is about to go through, this place will be a helpful escape for her and an opportunity to reset her energy. Hansen-Love has put a very fresh spin on the Self-Re-Evaluation tale that is so popular with indie and art-house films, creating a series of encounters that are always charismatic and interesting while also never letting them climax in some kind of contrived moment of clarity or life-changing decision. Instead, she expertly assembles a series of opportunities for Huppert to learn to cope, and watching her do so is more than satisfying.