Mia Hansen-Løve has been getting a lot of questions about Léa Seydoux’s sweater. When her film One Fine Morning begins, Seydoux—the French star of sumptuous art-house films, glamorous James Bond adventures, and Louis Vuitton ads—wears a humble blue pullover. The homey look might depart from some expectations. But it fits with the French director Hansen-Løve’s beautifully observed, day-to-day portrait of Sandra (Seydoux)—a shy translator who has a young daughter, a father who is losing his wits (Pascal Greggory), and a decidedly dormant love life. Yet errands must be run, and sweaters will be worn. That all shifts when—one fine morning—Sandra runs into an old friend (Melvil Poupaud) and begins a relationship that slowly, fitfully, opens new horizons.

“All of my films are portraits. They’re always a quest for meaning,” Hansen-Løve, 41, tells me. Her filmography sensitively and artfully maps out the terrain of such life transitions—the growing pains of adolescence in Goodbye First Love (2011), Isabelle Huppert’s beleaguered middle-aged professor in Things to Come (2016), and Vicky Krieps’s young filmmaker dreaming up projects and prospects in Bergman Island (2021).

A still from One Fine Morning.

Seydoux is in almost every scene of One Fine Morning, in theaters now, and she brings a tenderness, and, at times, a fragility, to Sandra that’s deeply poignant. To Hansen-Løve, the star is “never affected, she never overacts, and that gives you the feeling that something escapes you.” It’s a presence that feels at once direct and mysterious. “She has a sadness, something that she carries with her, a certain melancholy that sticks with her. That moves me a lot,” she says of Seydoux.

Juggling responsibilities and her affair with her (married) friend, Sandra must move her father out of his book-laden apartment into a hospital. That chapter of life hit home for Hansen-Løve, whose own father, a translator and teacher, faced cognitive impairment at the end of his life. “It was painful for me to be aware that the only cinematographic portrait of my father that I was creating was one when he wasn’t himself anymore,” Hansen-Løve says. She found one way of paying tribute to her father’s eloquence: we hear excerpts from a notebook belonging to Sandra’s father—words written by Hansen-Løve’s father.

Seydoux and Pascal Gregory, who plays her ailing father.

The story of One Fine Morning is one of finding both love and solitude: how can Sandra make space for herself and for romance, amid her obligations to her family? When I speak to Hansen-Løve, I mention that I’ve been reading the work of newly minted Nobel Prize winner Annie Ernaux, an inveterate chronicler of life as lived. Hansen-Løve recalls how Ernaux once published a fictional book about an affair—and then the diaries that inspired it.

“I actually prefer the diary, where there is no fiction—it’s purely her everyday life. It’s really the naked truth,” Hansen-Løve says. That same fidelity to experience is born out by her film. (And the sweater Sandra wears—Seydoux’s own.)

One Fine Morning, directed by Mia Hansen-Løve and starring Léa Seydoux, is in theaters now

Nicolas Rapold is a New York–based writer and the former editor of Film Comment magazine