I’ve Loved You So Long

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Writer / direc­tor Philippe Claudel’s I’ve Loved You So Long is a text­book exer­cise in the dra­matic with­hold­ing of nar­ra­tive infor­ma­tion. Juli­ette (Kristin Scott Thomas) is released from prison after serv­ing 15 years for an unspec­i­fied crime, and is unwill­ingly housed with her sis­ter Léa (Elsa Zyl­ber­stein). Léa is ini­tially her only ally, and her hus­band Luc (Serge Haz­anavi­cius) is dis­trust­ful for what turns out to be very good rea­son. Léa and Luc have adopted two chil­dren (a big clue to the cen­tral mys­tery of the movie), includ­ing their pre­co­cious older daugh­ter P’tit Lys (Lise Ségur, a rare movie tyke that is actu­ally endear­ing). As part of her pro­ba­tion, Juli­ette is required to sign in weekly with a lonely cop (Frédéric Pier­rot) with even more psy­cho­log­i­cal issues than she. The slow leak of infor­ma­tion ramps up the drama, but we’re told just enough to see that the movie is actu­ally about Juliette’s grad­ual, some­times painful reen­try into life, not her mys­te­ri­ous crime.

Kristen Scott Thomas in I've Loved You So Long

Thomas’s unshowy per­for­mance is act­ing of the high­est degree. The British already proved her flu­ency in French in Tell No One (read The Dork Report review), although a line of dia­logue here explains away her accent. She doesn’t dis­tract by invit­ing the audi­ence to be con­stantly impressed at how tal­ented she is. But that said, there were a few moments where I mar­veled at the com­plex emo­tions she con­veyed. Two scenes in par­tic­u­lar stand out: Juli­ette almost phys­i­cally recoils when intro­duced to Léa’s col­league Michel (Lau­rent Grévill) and when reunited with her estranged mother. Also watch for the almost inde­scrib­ably com­plex expres­sion that plays across her face when she meets a sleazy bloke in a pub shortly after her release.

Kristen Scott Thomas and Elsa Zylberstein in I've Loved You So Long

Only two fac­tors kept me from con­sid­er­ing the movie more highly. There’s a seem­ingly extra­ne­ous and unre­solved sub­plot about Léa ignor­ing a stu­dent who appears to have a crush on her, and claims he’s a sub­ject of prej­u­dice. Was the point merely that Léa is an attrac­tive, sym­pa­thetic per­son? Sec­ondly, the movie arguably descends into talky melo­drama at the very end; with­out reveal­ing too much, we learn the truth about what moti­vated Juliette’s crime, and why she stub­bornly kept her silence for so long.


Offi­cial movie site: www.sonyclassics.com/ivelovedyousolong

Buy the DVD from Ama­zon and kick back a few pen­nies to The Dork Report.