One Fine Morning aka Un Beau Matin | Written and Directed by Mia Hansen-Løve | 112 min
It’s unabashedly French with its Paris locations and story of a modern woman and single mother, Sandra (Léa Seydoux, spectacular in herJean Seberg cut), who has a love affair with an old friend, Clément (Melvil Poupaud). Complicating matters are the fact that the new man is married with a young kid of his own. All this while Sandra is trying to find care for her father (Pascal Greggory), a former philosophy professor who suffers from a neurodegenerative disease.
This isn’t a film where a lot happens. Sandra and Clément have a passionate courtship, his other commitments get in the way, he leaves, he comes back. Sandra, her mother and sister try to find the best care facility for her father to live that they can also afford. Occasionally she works as a translator. And we get to hang out in Paris with her and her eight-year-old daughter and watch the seasons change.
One Fine Morning is a picture you live in, exploring themes of fidelity, mortality, and self-sufficiency in the city. It even ends on a sentimental note, and I didn’t care because I’d so enjoyed the journey through these characters’ lives. A genuine gift.
Broker | Written and Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda | 129 min
I was one of the few people who was lukewarm on Koreeda’s award-winning Shoplifters.I found it too long and dramatically delicate. This one is even more of a challenge. Set in Korea, the Japanese filmmaker tells a story that’s freighted with possible conflict, but this is very slow going. Two guys trafficking abandoned babies (Parasite‘s Song Kang-ho and Dong-won Gang) team up with the young mother (Ji-eun Lee) of one newborn, all of them looking to have a good payday while a pair of cops are on their trail. When another boy joins them, they form an unlikely family, and start to question whether they really want to sell this baby, even as the mother’s violent recent history is revealed.
For about 10 seconds this looks like it’s going to turn into a thriller with the appearance of gangsters, but that never amounts to anything: The one possible antagonist is never serious about her intent and gives up way too easily. Also, this may be reflective of where South Korean society is at the moment, but the script is a long way from being feminist — it feels like Koreeda is pointedly soft-pedalling possible political content, which is surprising given this is a story that intersects with topics like adoption and abortion.
The problem here is everyone’s too damn nice. It’s the same issue I had with Shoplifters — Koreeda writes these super-sweet characters, here including the cliched hooker with a heart of gold. It’s deadly for developing any kind of stakes or suspense beyond a shaggy character drama. That’s fine for what it is, but mostly this is a road movie whose tires are soft, taking far too long to manifest.