Perhaps the most fascinating thing about watching philosophy professor Nathalie Chazeaux’s (Isabelle Huppert) life crumble is the utter lack of drama accorded to various disasters by both the film and its characters. (This is, one recalls, what’s meant by “taking things philosophically.”) Things fall apart, and as she notes in a rare and therefore memorable outburst, one is a fool to think otherwise. The natural character of the crumbling is heightened by writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve’s patience and care in setting up this particular house of cards, interspersed with her gradual introduction of tremors: Mom is failing in mind and body. The students are protesting. The husband is distant. The book isn’t selling. And so on. Eventually, even the consolations of philosophy are rendered dubious. But doubt isn’t despair, and undramatic isn’t unfeeling; Nathalie is never anything less than human, and never in need of any great lesson or epiphany. The world turns; she makes her peace and finds her way. (2016) — Matthew Lickona
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