Léa Seydoux stars in Mia Hansen-Løve’s family drama.
French director Mia Hansen-Løve’s One Fine Morning, the followup to her thought-provoking Bergman Island, is a quiet family drama. Léa Seydoux (The Lobster, Spectre) leads the cast as Sandra, a woman pulled in many directions. Her aging father Georg (Pascal Greggory) is years into a neurodegenerative disease, her young daughter Linn seeks attention, and her relationship with the married Clément (Melvil Poupaud) takes up what little emotional energy she has left—never mind her day job as an interpreter.
Dwelling on beginnings and endings, Hansen-Løve’s film appears to involve some autobiographical elements: The journal entry narrated by Georg towards the end is acknowledged in the closing credits as having been written by the director’s father, Øle. One might assume that the character of Georg, a German writer and professor, is based on her father, who passed away in 2020. We are introduced to Georg after his illness has progressed, diminishing his eyesight and affecting his memory and cognition.
Greggory’s performance is a highlight of the film. He plays a man who has lost certain elements of his identity and self, yet remains in his body. We hear from other characters about who Georg was, but Greggory capably performs Georg as he is now, often confused, longing for his companion Leila (Fejria Deliba), aware and yet not fully aware. When Sandra plays an instrumental work that once was his favorite, Georg asks her to stop it, as it is too laden with memories.
The writing in One Fine Morning contains the dimensionality one expects from a Hansen-Løve project, although the storytelling here is less mindbending than in Bergman Island. For me, the film brought to mind her Things to Come; I kept contrasting certain moments in my head. While this film centers around Sandra, the parental roles are fully-fledged. Nicole Garcia plays Sandra’s mom, Georg’s ex-wife, who is still involved in his life. Sandra explains to her daughter that Georg defined his personality through the books he owned. After his books are split among his past students, what is to define his identity now?
Much time is spent on the romance between Sandra and Clément, but this plays like something we’ve seen before and is a weaker facet of the film. What’s worth celebrating in One Fine Morning is the tender story of a daughter dealing with the ramifications of a father’s illness and the way Hansen-Løve shows the emotional exhaustion of caretaking for a loved one.