This review was first published to facebook on 4.5.17
Well-connected philosophy lecturer Isabelle Huppert goes through a few midlife crises and copes rather well, all things considered. Her husband leaves her for a younger woman but she’s not too upset because they’ve drifted apart intellectually and she’s sufficiently mature and accomplished to realise she probably doesn’t need him. The kids have grown up and left home but they’re still nice kids who get on well with both parents.
Her frail, attention-seeking mother is a bigger problem but – spoiler alert! – she dies and Isabelle is finally free, although Maman’s fat black cat causes a few headaches at first. But not for long. Isabelle becomes quite fond of old Pandora (as did I). Nothing like shedding a few tears while cuddling a purring pussycat to make you count your blessings.
And she does have quite a few of those. For a start, she’s still great chums with a devilishly handsome ex-student whom she’s set on the path to academic and literary success. He welcomes her into his friendly bohemian circle who have this fabulous old stone farmhouse up in the mountains where they sit around drinking wine, discussing philosophy, listening to music and smoking joints and gauloises. French heaven, n’est-ce pas?
When not taking her mind off things up there she’s got her own utterly gorgeous stylish Paris pad. For another thing the husband’s still being very pleasant, helps out when maman dies, and he’s still a devoted dad…and grandfather, eventually. She too gets right into grandparenthood when her daughter’s first baby is born.
I really couldn’t tell you what the moral of the story was. Unless it’s that anyone who studies and teaches modern French philosophy for a living is going to have a permanent case of ennui (which, as the late John Clarke once so amusingly pointed out, is French for Henry).
It’s always amazed me that a culture that so cultivates and cherishes the good and beautiful things in life – art, food, wine, music, architecture – should have given rise to such an impenetrable, miserable, nihilistic modern philosophy. Try reading Derrida or Foucault or Sartre – they’re enough to give anyone a bad case of the Henries.