One Fine Morning is an aesthetically luscious film which struggles to find a balance between its core storylines.
BY TRESCA MALLON APRIL 25, 2023
Sandra (Léa Seydoux) struggles to find adequate care for her ailing father (Pascal Greggory) while raising her young daughter. She meets an old friend, a married man named Clément (Melvil Poupaud) and they begin an affair.
Mia Hanson-Løve has a distinctive aesthetic that radiates warmth and nostalgia in every frame. One Fine Morning uses colour in grading, costume and production design to throw a pastel hue over the scenery with splashes of radiant vividity. The simplistic cosiness displayed in a Hanson-Løve film is often at odds with the characters’ turmoil and their outer surrounding jar wonderfully with their inner conflicts. One Fine Morning is no different and as Sandra gets caught up in her whirlwind romance or when she is caring for her father there is a feeling of blissfulness in her surroundings that does not reflect her reality. Hanson-Løve once said in an interview that she is fascinated with what gives her characters’ lives meaning. She observes the characters allowing them to move through the lens freely achieving a pleasing naturalism as she depicts an everyday life.
Léa Seydoux has quietly become a staple of both arthouse and mainstream film over the past decade and for good reason. Her ability to imbue a multitude of emotions and convey an entire story in one close-up shot is astounding. One Fine Morning is made up of a series of interactions for Seydoux’s character Sandra, some fleeting, some repetitive, some warm while other are fraught. Through each interaction we learn more about a character who is largely closed off to us and to the world. Seydoux manages to capture both a coldness and a vulnerability, making the audience immediately protective over a character who was closed off for so long and is perhaps opening herself up too quickly to the wrong person.
While the narrative is, at times, dominated by her romance with Clement, it is far from the most affecting relationship in her life. While there is a degree of chemistry between the characters and their desire is palpable, the vitality of the relationship falls flat on delivery. Clements pomposity is extremely off-putting, especially as we get the feeling we are supposed to somewhat share in Sandra’s infatuation. There is a playfulness and comfortability to their dynamic, undercut by an eternal wistfulness that things had been different from the start. It is an imperfect relationship, which is ok as most relationships are imperfect. Ultimately, One Fine Morning is a film about loss of control. In her relationship with Clement, despite her best efforts, she is at the mercy of his whim. He decides when they meet, when they fuck and when he will leave his wife. As they fall apart and come back together, the cycle becomes tedious and makes their love one that’s hard to root for.
The theme of losing control is much more deftly portrayed in Sandra’s relationship with her father who is slowly leaving her due to a neurodegenerative disease. When we meet Sandra’s father he is already diminished by his condition. Through Sandra’s interactions with her family members and their anecdotes we get the impression of a once brilliant and intellectual man who was “obsessed with structure and rigidity.” Sandra can’t stand to see her father lose control. She doesn’t want to take him to the toilet or watch him partake in nursing home activities. She doesn’t see this ailing man as her father. She tells her daughter that the man in the hospital is just his ‘bodily envelope’ but his soul belongs with his books. While echoes remain of their past relationship, the dynamic of daughter and father has been almost entirely replaced by carer and the cared for, and as his memory fades she is no longer the most important person in his life.
Sandra’s mother (Nicole Garcia) is a hilarious character who revels in the possibility of arrest while carrying out climate justice action or posits conspiracy theories about the American government. She adds comic relief while also providing important insights into the family dynamic and the reason for the unavoidable distance that exists within their family. Her glib response to Sandra’s question about why she didn’t divorce her father sooner – ‘I was afraid he would kill himself. There’s too much suicide in this family.’ While they have been brought together in crisis there is a lot left unspoken. These relationships with her family members are subtly and movingly portrayed in brief encounters bookmarking the film.
One Fine Morning makes a lot of attempts at complexity and often it lands, if not a gut punch, a gentle nudge to the abdomen. There is no meaningful resolution which is completely purposeful and we don’t leave our protagonist feeling like she is safe or fulfilled. There is beauty in an open and unresolved ending, however, with so much build-up, especially in the romantic relationship, the ending is slightly rushed and disjointed. The eternally shifting focus which pulls away from the emotional core too often leaves a frustrating tonal imbalance. Despite a strong performance from Seydoux, multiple beautifully scripted moments and a distinctive aesthetic, One Fine Morning doesn’t quite live up to the originality and intricacy we have come to expect from Hanson-Løve.