One Fine Morning

Sandra Kienzler (Léa Seydoux) is a young widow raising her daughter in a Parisian studio apartment.  Sandra is constantly serving other people, whether at her job as a translator or helping her retired philosophy professor father Georg (Pascal Greggory) who is blind and suffering from a neurological disorder which is eroding his memory.  When she runs into an old friend of her husband’s, cosmo-chemist Clément (Melvil Poupaud, "By the Grace of God"), sparks fly and she begins a passionate affair with the married father in “One Fine Morning.”

Laura's Review: A-

Writer/director Mia Hansen-Løve’s ("Bergman Island") love letter to love in all its various incarnations is at once an eye-opening view into one over-burdened Everywoman’s life, an exploration of the unusual type of grief in letting go of someone who is still physically present and a reflection of the joy to be found in a second chance at love.  Hansen-Løve’s film radiates outward, pulling in the complexities of the bonds still present after divorce and the love of a student for an admired teacher, but the film’s emotional center is Léa Seydoux’s incandescent performance, her facial expressions reflecting things left unsaid.

We first meet Sandra navigating her way into her dad’s apartment, the man then reluctant to set down his phone in case Leïla (Fejria Deliba, "By the Grace of God"), his girlfriend, should call.  His daughter is extremely gentle with him, guiding him towards recollections of things once familiar.  But her now remarried mother, Françoise (Nicole Garcia, "Who You Think I Am"), a firecracker newly enthralled with unlawful acts of social protest, voices the obvious – Georg can no longer live on his own and must be placed in a home.  None of the options are good and a lifetime of work, represented by a huge collection of books, must be gotten rid of.

When Sandra runs into Clément, he’s just returned from an exotic months long work trip and they arrange to catch up over dinner.  Although he’s married, his son a classmate of Sandra’s Linn (Camille Leban Martins), their chemistry is undeniable and when Sandra asks about his wife, it becomes clear the marriage has gone stale.  She visits him at his workplace where the flirtation boils over, each laughingly claiming the other kissed them first.

Hansen-Løve’s warm and wonderful film is a marvel, keeping us riveted with the details of everyday life, albeit a busy one at a crossroads.  We watch Sandra translate a veterans’ tour of a distillery; graciously accommodate one of Georg’s old students, Esther (Elsa Guedj), a kindness that will prove beneficial; wait out the emotional drama of Linn’s fake limp; vacation with her family at her sister Elodie’s (Sarah Le Picard) rental and participate in the Christmas Eve charade of Santa’s arrival, all while navigating a love affair with a man trying to extricate himself from a marriage.

Seydoux manages to make the mom version of herself – jeans and t-shirts, sensible work suits and shoes, short hair and no make-up – sexy through her portrayal of Sandra as caring, curious, vulnerable and yearning.  But the entire ensemble revolving around her are wonderful as well, Greggory conveying the man who is now disappearing, Poupaud torn between guilt and new love.  Shooting in 35mm, cinematographer Denis Lenoir’s style is unflashy, maintaining focus on these characters and their continually shifting surroundings, Georg’s four moves colored by varying degrees of warmth and coolness.  Hansen-Løve has chosen a stately piece which she found in a Bergman film, ‘Liksom en herdinna’ by Swedish composer Jan Johansson, as a punctuational refrain which somehow fits.

“One Fine Morning,” disclosed as the title Georg Kienzler used in an unfinished autobiography about his earlier years in Vienna and his father’s suicide, finds the beacon of light that guides us through life’s painful passages.  Seydoux personifies it.

Robin's Review: B+

Sandra (Lea Seydoux) has a lot on her plate. She’s a single mom raising her eight-year old daughter Linn (Camille Leban Martins) and her father, Georg (Pascal Greggory), is suffering from a quickly worsening neurodegenerative disease. Things change for the better when she meets Clement (Melvil Poupaud), an old friend of her late husband, and sparks fly on “One Fine Morning.”

Mia Hansen-Love writes and directs this very Gallic slice of life centering on the talented and gorgeous Lea Seydoux as Sandra. This study and capable young woman faces her burdens head on. Raising a child on her own is a tough enough job, but her dad’s deterioration proves an even greater responsibility and burden.

Georg is unable to care for himself or his apartment and Sandra must find a place for her dad to live. This begins a bureaucratic nightmare for both father and daughter as he is shuffled from one senior care facility to another, with each successive place a bit shabbier and less appealing. It is a statement against the French health care system – long vaunted as one of the best – when it comes to caring for those who are no longer productive to society.

But, the story is also about Sandra, her adored daughter and Clement and their on-again off-again affair. The raising a daughter part of her responsibility is a no brainer as the love and devotion Sandra feels for Linn, and vice versa, is palpable.

The affair part of Sandra’s story is a bit more, shall I say, frustrating as married Clement has mixed loyalties to his wife, Valerie, and to Sandra. Sandra, though, is usually the odd woman out as he is always drawn back to his wife and son. The ups and downs of their affair are frustrating to me as she always waits patiently for him to make a decision affecting her life.

“One Fine Morning” belongs to Seydoux as the actress puts great emotion into her expressions. In one scene, as she rides on a train, the wash of her many feelings are shown just through her changing expressions. She also has the ability to be sexy and make you believe she is a loving mom at the same time.

Sony Pictures Classics opens “One Fine Morning” in select theaters on 1/27/23, expanding on 2/3/23.