‘One Fine Morning’ Review: An Extraordinary Movie That Shakes You Quietly

In small ways, this film from Mia Hansen-Løve — starring Léa Seydoux as a widowed single mother caring for her ill father — will break your heart.

Léa Seydoux as Sandra (right) and Pascal Greggory as Georg in ‘One Fine Morning.’ Carole Bethuel / Les Films Pelléas. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

There is a distinct sense of empathy that resonates from Mia Hansen-Løve’s One Fine Morning. The French drama, written and directed by Hansen-Løve, stars Léa Seydoux as Sandra, a widowed single mother faced with the ever-familiar challenge of an ailing parent. Her father Georg (Pascal Greggory) is a former professor—and great thinker—who now suffers from a neurodegenerative disease that leaves him blind and confused. Sandra and her sister grapple with getting him the best care possible in a difficult system that forces Georg from care home to care home throughout Paris. A chance encounter in a park reunites Sandra with the married Clément (Melvil Poupaud), a friend of her late husband. The two begin a passionate love affair that only adds to the tumult of Sandra’s existence, but which also affirms her desire for life. 

ONE FINE MORNING ★★★1/2 (3.5/4 stars)
Directed by: Mia Hansen-Løve
Written by: Mia Hansen-Løve
Starring: Léa Seydoux, Pascal Greggory, Melvil Poupaud, Nicole Garcia, Fejria Deliba, Camille Leban Martins, Sarah Le Picard, Pierre Meunier
Running time: 112 mins.

Despite centering much of its plot on a love affair, One Fine Morning is a quiet, often still film. It doesn’t rely on drama or big emotion. Instead, Seydoux winningly imbues Sandra with nuanced responses to what’s happening around her. It’s easy to relate to Sandra’s grief over her father or her uncertainty about her affair not only because she seems real, but because Seydoux and Hansen-Løve both clearly feel for the character. The inhabitants of this world are us, or people like us, and they’re experiencing the same sorts of things we experience. Each scene is a glimpse of particular moment—Sandra clearing out her father’s beloved books, Sandra’s eight-year-old daughter feigning a limp for attention, Sandra and Clément having sex in her tiny apartment—but together they create an emotionally-evocative impression of a woman’s life. 

In small ways, Hansen-Løve allows One Fine Morning to break the viewer’s heart, but overall the film is unexpectedly hopeful. Anyone who has guided a parent through a debilitating disease will find the story especially heartbreaking, particularly as Sandra begins to crack under the weight of her father’s suffering. But One Fine Morning is also about starting again and finding joy in the midst of sadness. Sandra admits to Clément that she has shut herself off from physical love since the death of her husband, but he helps her realize that didn’t have to be so finite. She can still feel, and a what a relief it is to discover that. 

An everyday life doesn’t really differentiate between big moments and the smaller, more insignificant ones. We live continuously through them all. Hansen-Løve is a filmmaker who revels in that truth and, ultimately, celebrates it. There is a grace to the storytelling in One Fine Morning, which threads through much of the director’s work, and it’s that gentle touch that makes the viewer feel seen. This is a movie that shakes you very quietly and carefully, almost without you realizing it. By the end, you know you’ve glimpsed something extraordinary: a hint of what it means to be human.

Observer Reviews are regular assessments of new and noteworthy cinema. ‘One Fine Morning’ Review: An Extraordinary Movie That Shakes You Quietly