There aren’t many other films in 2022 that can claim to deliver as completely on their titles as Mia Hansen-Love’s One Fine Morning does. Following roughly a year in the life of professional translator and single mum Sandra (Lea Seydoux), Hansen-Love is constantly bathing her actors in the gorgeous Parisian morning light, its colour and brightness changing with the seasons but its beauty never dimming. It’s a fitting visual motif for a light slice-of-life drama, dealing with complex and grown-up themes but never drowning them in kitchen sink grittiness.
As well as taking care of her young daughter Linn (Camille Leban Martins), Sandra is also looking for a new home for her ailing father Georg (Pascal Greggory), also a translator and a deeply good-natured man, but unable to care for himself thanks a neuro-degenerative condition that is robbing him of both memory and eyesight. Into this stressful but manageable milieu falls Clement (Melvil Poupaud), a handsome scientist and old friend of Sandra’s who has been out of Paris for a long time on an Antarctic expedition. The immediate spark is undeniable, and Sandra quickly finds herself locked in a genuinely loving affair with Clement, who has a wife and child of his own.
Hansen-Love handles all these spinning plates calmly and maturely. There are no awards-friendly screaming matches during the ups and downs of Sandra and Clement’s relationship, nor are there any nasty mishaps involving Georg – he actually ends up getting a little healthier in the final third of the film. This is an adult life lived at a familiar, relatable pace, Hansen-Love having complete confidence in her dialogue and cast to keep it compelling. For the most part, it’s an earned confidence, One Fine Morning always trundling along at an amiable pace, though the lack of any big drama or laughs did eventually test my patience.
Seydoux makes the most of one of her richest roles in a while – after her colder/sillier recent English-language roles in stuff like The French Dispatch, No Time To Die, and Crimes of the Future, it’s a good reminder of her skill in a more low-key and human register. Like everyone else in One Fine Morning, Sandra is, quite simply, a nice and patient person trapped in a demanding set of circumstances. It makes for a cast that is very pleasant to spend time with, with no antagonistic characters anywhere – Clement’s cheating could have made him a bog-standard shitbag, but he’s always trying to be as kind as possible.
As nice as this all is, though, it does push One Fine Morning firmly into the ‘nothing really happens’ genre which, for me, proved a strain in a film pushing its way to a two-hour runtime. Always straight-faced, and mostly played at an even emotional keel, it didn’t quite fully hook me in (with the notable exception of a simply lovely Christmas scene between Sandra and her sister and mum, setting up all the snacks for Santa alongside the kids). That’s not always fully the film’s fault though – this is a genre I often bounce off of – and as an example of a gentle drama, it really doesn’t put that many steps out of place.