Actress of the moment Huppert is stoic as she is caught between two stages of her life.
Curzon Artificial Eye
Parisian philosophy teacher Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert) is at a fairly stable time in her life. She loves her job and her late-teenage children, and has the satisfaction of knowing that her teaching work inspires her students.
One ex-student Fabien (Roman Kolinka) tells her that he has two memories of his final year: one was the hospital where his father was dying and the other was her philosophy class, where she spoke of holding on.
But not everything is easy for Nathalie. She has problems with her publishers; her eccentric, manipulative mother is ageing and demanding; and out of the blue, her husband tells her that he is leaving her for another woman. Shortly afterwards, her mother dies.
Yet, it leads her to claim, “I have found freedom, total freedom. It’s extraordinary!”
Things to Come follows her as she tries to find ways to re-invent herself, so that she can launch into a new personal era. She is already on good terms with some of her anarchistic ex-students and she spends some time with them in their rural commune. But that is not her future: her age and experience mean that she does not fit in comfortably either with their radicalism, or their lifestyle.
Actress of the moment (Paste Magazine made her their Film Person of the Year for 2016) Huppert reacts to Nathalie’s changing situation with stoicism and dignity, trying to apply the theory of her philosophy to the aching reality that much of the world she has built for herself over a generation has fallen apart.
There is one brief moment when she kicks a door that reveals the anger and frustration inside, made more powerful by the restraint that she shows otherwise.
The young filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve takes this contemplative drama at an appropriately middle-aged pace as she investigates the future that Nathalie will make for herself.
So those who look for Fast and Furious films, click away now. This is understated, soundtrack-free and treats its topic as intelligently as the characters demand.
While much of the plot takes place inside classrooms and homes, there are times when you can almost feel the warmth of the sun as she moves out from shadows or the moist, hot sand as she walks along a beach.
The French title L’Avenir puts a little more focus on the future and towards the end the philosophy that Nathalie teaches is not so much aimed at her students as those of us behind the fourth wall.
She teaches, quoting Rousseau, “If happiness fails to come, hope persists and illusion’s charm lasts as long as the passion causing it. Thus this condition suffices to itself and the anxiety it inflicts is a pleasure, which supplants reality, perhaps bettering it. Woe to him who has nothing to desire – he loses everything he owns. We enjoy less what we own than what we desire, and are happy only before becoming so.
"So long as we desire, we can do without happiness..." she claims – but should we believe it. And does she?