The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT)

‘One Fine Morning’: Léa Seydoux shines in an intimate character study

- By Thomas Floyd

“One Fine Morning” Rated: R, contains some sexuality, nudity and coarse language. Running time: 112 minutes. ★★★ (out of four)

In “One Fine Morning,” a tender character study from French writer-director Mia Hansen-Love, Léa Seydoux plays a Parisian widow whose personal and profession­al lives revolve around the needs of others. As a translator, Seydoux's Sandra spends her days guiding American veterans through Normandy or interpreti­ng talks for lecture hall audiences. Between jobs, she strolls the streets from one familial obligation to another, picking up her young daughter from school and fencing classes while caring for her ailing father as his mind slowly fades.

That doesn't leave Sandra with much time for anything else in this nuanced

portrait of a woman torn between the people who depend on her and her own dormant desires. When Sandra reconnects with Clément (Melvil Poupaud), a married friend who leads a more adventurou­s life as a globe-trotting scientist, the 30somethin­g mother makes a casual concession: “I just feel my love life is behind me.” But those words are

promptly disproved when Sandra and Clément's flirtation­s blossom into a fullblown affair.

Seydoux, best known for her femme fatale turns in the past two James Bond movies, is restrained but radiant in this naturalist­ic depiction of a woman rediscover­ing her sensuality. As Clément, Poupaud plays the conflicted husband with

palpable consternat­ion. Although guilt over betraying his wife's and son's trust eats at Clément, Hansen-Love is refreshing­ly nonjudgmen­tal toward an entangleme­nt that easily could have been flattened into a cautionary tale. “One Fine Morning,” thankfully, is focused more on Sandra's and Clément's humanity than their indiscreti­ons.

Amid the emotionall­y taxing affair, Sandra also worries about the well-being of her daughter, Linn (Camille Leban Martins, delightful­ly plucky), whose sudden limp appears to be psychosoma­tic. Yet it's the deteriorat­ion of her father, Georg (Pascal Greggory), a former philosophy professor with a neurodegen­erative condition, that pushes Sandra to the brink. Georg's mind seems vacant, as his eyesight fades and he grows increasing­ly prone to delusion and disorienta­tion. But Hansen-Love's semiautobi­ographical script provides heart-wrenching glimpses of the empathetic academic within.

As Georg moves out of his well-lived-in apartment and transition­s to full-time care, Sandra and her family sort through his belongings — namely, towering bookcases that gesture toward the kind of intellectu­al curiosity that's been tragically undone by his disease. For all of her tear-stifling resolve, Sandra can't help but break down as the weight

of her father's reality closes in on her. When a former student of Georg's asks for his email address, Sandra struggles to share the extent of his decline. Later, Seydoux devastates as her character confides in Clément while considerin­g her own life's fragility.

Through Sandra, Hansen-Love delicately communicat­es how everyday hurdles can feel insurmount­able in the face of a loved one's mortality. It's a challengin­g display of caregiving's toll, and the ways in which hardship shapes a worldview. The languid film largely proceeds without a score, though Hansen-Love does lean on the considered compositio­ns of veteran cinematogr­apher Denis Lenoir to enhance the intimacy.

It shouldn't surprise that Hansen-Love doesn't quite know where to end this humanistic rumination, considerin­g such tales don't lend themselves to tidy resolution­s. For a film so steeped in sorrow, “One Fine Morning” surprises with a conclusion about the value of forging on and seizing opportunit­ies for reinventio­n. In the midst of such darkness, it's comforting to be reminded that the dawn always comes.

 ?? Carole Bethuel/Les Films Pelléas/Sony Pictures Classics. ?? From left, Melvil Poupaud, Camille Leban Martins and Léa Seydoux in “One Fine Morning.”
Carole Bethuel/Les Films Pelléas/Sony Pictures Classics. From left, Melvil Poupaud, Camille Leban Martins and Léa Seydoux in “One Fine Morning.”

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