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A Beautiful Morning – Un Beau Matin – wonderful film

Family day today, so I went to see a fantastic film about family. Usually I am leery of French films, often overly intellectual, labored, tedious, and slow. But this one, Un Beau Matin – A Beautiful Morning – written and directed by Mia Hansen-Løve, is spectacular. It’s the opposite of Tàr, about an exceptionally rare kind of ambitious woman. This is about an ordinary woman with an ordinary life, and yet I think the point is that there is nothing ordinary about her. 

Sandra, a translator and a widow raising a young daughter and tending her ill father, spends her life taking care of others. One of my only criticisms is that though she betrays exhaustion and grief, she never loses her temper or shows the slightest impatience or annoyance, qualifying her for sainthood. But she’s not a saint, she’s a dutiful, loving woman whose father, once a respected philosophy professor, has a devastating degenerative disease that requires his family to move him from his light-filled apartment to a series of assisted care places of varying quality. There’s one particularly moving scene where they have to clear out his hundreds of much-loved books. Sandra says the books represent her father to her more than the man she goes to see in the care home, who barely knows her. 

One day, I thought with tears, my children will have to clear out my books.

She meets an old friend and they become lovers, so a dormant part of her is brought back to glowing life. But he’s unhappily married, so it’s complicated. Again, he’s perfect: tender, thoughtful, smart, honest. Her whole family, in fact, is perfect, her mother or stepmother, her sister, her father’s partner – all of them patient and attentive. 

It’s a film about profound love, about the infinite number of tasks good people perform every day to care for children, the ill, the elderly. A lot of the film is Sandra endlessly on the metro, going to work, to visit her father, to get her daughter at school. There are countless powerful short scenes that fly by; the writing is brilliant.  

At the end I felt raw, as if layers had been scraped off and my heart had opened. The story made me deeply grateful my own father, who feared the Alzheimer’s that afflicted his mother, died on his own terms. That my mother, at 89, was losing memory and agency but didn’t descend too far before the end. I hope our government allows us to sign a form permitting our children to make difficult decisions for their elders if we degenerate. Sandra makes her lover promise he’ll take her to a Swiss clinic if the disease her father has begins to affect her. I hope Canadians with degenerative diseases don’t need to go to Switzerland to end their days. I do not want my children to have to go through what Sandra goes through.

Though I have no doubt that if they had to, they would, and that is the greatest comfort of all. 

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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