A philosophy teacher watches her existence gradually come undone as she deals with the universal events of aging.
Told from the perspective of bourgeois comfort, Isabelle Huppert humanizes tired clichés about growing old. Her character’s commitment to education connects her to current contemporary anxieties about political futures. At times, the pacing evokes Haneke, with its glacial emotional encounters. At others, Rhomer is referenced through attention to and mention of philosophical texts and figures. Her face and poise evoke something beyond wisdom. She glows with wonder and discovery, walking with assurance and connectedness to her sense of self. When her husband confesses infidelity, she questions his narcissism, and braces her new aloneness boldly with the fearlessness and zeal that even the youth activists she mentors apparently lack.
When her favorite student accuses her of a “bourgeois lifestyle”, she calls his ideals sterile, meaning too radical and without foresight. She swats reproaches like flies, and befriends a cat named Pandora whose independence and animal instinct reflects her own sure-footedness in life.
But besides the suggested complexity of her character, the story fails to explore the tenets of faith that are the foundation of her strong will and optimism. Philosophical quotes are used as shorthands for emotional truths and fall prey to intellectualization over feeling. However, Huppert’s passion is palpable and emblematic of artistic truths achievable through cinema.