One Fine Morning

Original title or aka: Un Beau Matin

Director: Mia Hansen-Love
Starring: Lea Seydoux, Pascal Greggory, Melvil Poupaud, Camille Leban Martins, Nicole Garcia and Fejria Deliba
Distributor: Palace Films
Runtime: 113 mins. Reviewed in Jun 2023
Reviewer: Peter W Sheehan
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: A strong sex scene

This French, subtitled film tells the story of a woman who enters into an affair while coping with the stress of caring for her severely ill father. The film is inspired by the illness of the director’s father, while he was still alive.

This romantic drama was written and directed by Mia Hansen-Love. At the Cannes Film Festival in 2022, it won Best European Film. In the film, Sandra Kienzler (Seydoux) plays a widowed Parisian with an eight-year-old daughter, Linn (Martins). She is also the main carer for her father, Georg (Greggory), a retired university professor, who is suffering from a progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting vision, memory, and perception that affects the abilities he values greatly. Georg has “Benson’s Syndrome”, a variant of Alzheimer’s disease, and the disease is destroying his sight and cognitive functioning.

While caring for her father, Sandra unexpectedly meets Clement (Poupaud), an academic friend of her father. They are attracted to each other and begin a passionate, romantic and intimate connection. Clement, however, is married to another woman, with whom he has a child.

Françoise (Garcia), Sandra’s mother, though divorced from Georg helps care for her former husband. She tells Sandra that Georg is getting worse and requires full-time care in a nursing home. Sandra and Françoise have trouble placing him, and Georg keeps talking about Leïla (Deliba), who has been his companion for five years. The affair between Sandra and Clement vacillates, and Clement moves in and out of Sandra’s life romantically. While cleaning Georg’s room, Sandra comes across a rough manuscript of an autobiography Georg was writing, that Georg has optimistically titled, “One Fine Morning”, the name of this movie.

This is an impressively photographed film that shifts its colour and lighting to reflect the director’s intended moods. Seydoux powerfully portrays a single mother caught between two men, who are emotionally demanding of her. She delivers an aching portrayal of a woman whose existence anticipates the tragic loss of a father’s love, and the threat of losing happiness offered to her by Clement. She is emotionally vulnerable on both fronts.

Seydoux’s acting dramatically illustrates major emotional complications by highlighting hope and certain sadness that lie ahead. The topic of euthanasia is mentioned only briefly. First and foremost, the movie is tied to viewers’ understanding of the experiences that Sandra’s life is delivering. The different themes that the film raises are unresolved. Rather, the film’s power lies in the vivid sharing of human experience. Georg’s fractured account of the loss of reality, that is happening to him, for example, makes for extraordinary cinema.

This is a highly personal and introspective film (the director’s own father had a neurodegenerative condition), that deals with the traumas of life in a thoughtful way. Sandra knows she should end her relationship with Clement, but she also knows that would terminate a source of happiness which she desperately wants. The film is a bitter-sweet intermingling of grief, love, and guilt, and it targets the boundaries that separate health infirmity from love, loss, sensuality, and the emotional support that life requires.

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