It takes a truly confident filmmaker to write and direct a character study that feels as low stakes as Mia Hansen-Løve’s “One Fine Morning,” which premiered at Cannes before Toronto and an upcoming theatrical release. The director of the excellent “Eden,” “Things to Come,” and “Bergman Island,” one of my favorite films of last year, has an elegance of character, an ability to spend time with well-drawn, believable people without forcing them into contrived melodrama. However, this time her confidence leads to a production with characters that she clearly loves but almost too much in that she doesn’t give them quite enough to do to connect to an audience. I’m all for a gentle character piece, but this one feels so slight that it slips through your fingers, even as it flirts with concepts like love and death.
Sandra (Lea Seydoux) is a giver. She gives her all to her role as a mother to a clever eight-year-old (Camille Leban Martins). She doesn’t hesitate to give her heart and soul to her ailing father Georg (Pascal Gregory), who is increasingly succumbing to the mortality of old age, including Alzheimer’s. She’s even a translator, which doesn’t feel accidental in that’s another role in which Sandra connects people, this time across languages. And then she’s surprised to give her all to a romance when an old friend named Clement (Melvil Poupaud) pops back into her life and they begin an affair, despite the fact that he’s married with a child.
Hansen-Løve tracks Sandra’s life mostly across two plotlines with the most important men in her life, Clement and Georg. Sandra is the kind of person who seems to so rarely think of herself, and the love affair with Clement allows her to do so. At the same time, she manages her ailing father as he moves from his apartment to a hospital and then to a home, but she seems to be increasingly willing to let him go, understanding that she can’t stop what’s going to happen and needs to live a life of her own. Of course, the romance isn’t all sunshine and roses as Clement feels pulled back to his family life, leaving Sandra to wonder if she’ll ever have the secure, stable relationship she so clearly desires.