Runtime: 112 minutes
Director: Mia Hansen-Love
Writer: Mia Hansen-Love
Cast: Lea Seydoux, Pascal Greggory, Melvil Poudpaud, Nicole Garcia
By Tom Moore
Writer/director Mia Hansen-Love returns with another romantic drama, “One Fine Morning,” that features a top-tier performance from Lea Seydoux and a deeply personal slice of life story.
As someone who struggled to fully connect with Hansen-Love’s last film, “Bergman Island”(2021), and the central couple’s talk of Ingmar Bergman, “One Fine Morning” has a much more engaging central story that stays grounded and relatable. The film follows Sandra (Seydoux), a single mother who struggles to find a balance between caring for her father Georg (Pascal Greggory) as his health declines and her relationship with a married man named Clement (Melvil Poupaud). It’s tough to say whether it’s Denis Lenoir’s very warm cinematography or simply how Hansen-Love captures and directs this story, but it instantly gets its hooks into the very grounded nature of its story.
Sandra just feels exactly like someone you would see walking down the street or maybe even know and her dynamics with other people, especially her father, are touching from the start. Her initial interaction with her father, who struggles to see and is starting to lose his ability to take care of himself, is full of good-heartedness and even provides a laugh or two. However, even in these good early moments, there’s a looming gloomy feel that carries heavy emotions surrounding the sadness Sandra has over her father’s condition. There are some moments that really cut deep as Sandra and her family try to find the best options for her father and a big reason why these moments hit so hard emotionally is because of how Hansen-Love approaches it.
Rather than try to create moments that are big cinematic fights or a nasty intensity that just bursts suddenly, Hansen-Love simply keeps it real with how she depicts Sandra and her family trying to help her father. The emotion of Sandra’s story in “One Fine Morning” always feels present and her vulnerability to be emotional on-screen is something that keeps you attached to her story. What Sandra is dealing with is something that a lot of people end up dealing with as loved ones age and it makes her story super engaging and her emotions relatable. While Hansen-Love’s more realistic approach is what makes Sandra shine as a character, Seydoux’s performance takes her to another level.
Seydoux shows some excellent range in her performance making viewers laugh, cry, and clutch at their heart with how connective she can be as Sandra. She meshes excellently with Hansen-Love’s direction and leaves you on the verge of tears as times with some of the breakdowns that Sandra has and some of the feelings she evokes about the situation. Seydoux also shares some great chemistry with Poupaud making their forbidden love fascinating to watch.
Even while their relationship shouldn’t be beloved and is morally wrong, there’s still something intriguing about it simply because of the impact it has for Sandra during this time. With everything happening with her father and it likely bringing out a loneliness she’s felt as a single mother, it’s easy to understand why they continue their relationship. Now, this story thread doesn’t necessarily come together that cleanly in the end and can feel a little thin with how it lacks consequences, especially when it comes to Clement’s double dipping, but it ultimately plays a key role in Sandra’s great growth.
While Sandra feels stuck for the most part in these tough situations and struggles to find comfort in the chaos, the film ends up giving her great moments to do so. There are some immensely satisfying moments of Sandra looking deeper into her father’s life and his viewpoint of his condition that allow her to find greater comfort. When Sandra finally establishes that she doesn’t just want to be a mistress for Clement, it feels empowering in a personal way and sees her take a little more control of things. However, it’s even better how she’s not exactly perfect after everything is said and done. She still feels a lot of strong, sad emotions about everything, but is still in a better place that allows her to confront things a little easier. Sandra’s story is about finding comfort in tough times, something everyone could surely use in their own way right now, and Hansen-Love never lets the humanity of her story fade, which is what makes it so strong.
“One Fine Morning” shows Seydoux and Hansen-Love at their strongest as they come together for a slice of life story about finding comfort in tragic times that evokes a lot of relatability and tough emotions that make it a fulfilling and gratifying watch.