Mark Metcalf
Moving Pictures

I’ve Loved You So Long

By - Aug 27th, 2009 07:43 am
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Kristin Scott Thomas (Juliette), Elsa Zylberstein (Léa)

Kristin Scott Thomas (Juliette), Elsa Zylberstein (Léa)

There’s a fine maturity about French films. The ones that I remember most are about adults and the difficulties inherent in grown-up life; sort of the opposite of Hollywood, which seems to be stuck in an adolescent mindset.

Juliette Fontaine waits at an airport. Her sister is late picking her up. Juliette smokes. Her sister arrives, saying little. There are no recriminations, only restrained excitement, mystery and questions.

Philippe Claudel, the writer/director of 2008’s I’ve Loved You So Long, doles out information bit by bit. But so does Juliette Fontaine, portrayed with amazing restraint and depth by Kristin Scott Thomas. What you learn eventually is that Juliette is returning to what is left of her family after a 15-year lock-up in a French prison. (I won’t say why, though, as to not spoil the remarkable tension built up in this moving film.)

In France and elsewhere, Thomas won several awards for her performance. In the film, she succeeds at remaining completely inaccessible to everyone around her, yet gives the audience a glimpse of the price one pays for withholding the story of your inner self. Elsa Zylberstein, who took home Best Supporting Actress honors in France, gives a wonderfully wild performance as the younger sister who was abandoned, grossly deceived and asked to live a lie. But in noble fashion, she manages to find her own individuality and rage, even against overwhelming odds.

This different worldview appeals to me. At different points in time I may prefer it to the one at home, just the way I may want pasta for dinner on Saturday but a nice paella on Sunday. And sometimes I need a film about grown-ups that are flawed but trying, as is the case here. I need to see a world where there is no completely evil or good side, where there are just people who make mistakes and struggle to be understood.

Categories: Movies

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