I've Loved You So Long
Review by Jack Foley
KRISTIN Scott Thomas delivers an Oscar calibre performance in this slow-moving, yet richly compelling French film about two sisters attempting to re-connect after a life-shattering tragedy.
For 15 years, Juliette (Kristin Scott Thomas) has had no ties with the family who rejected her. But even though life once violently separated them, Lea (Elsa Zylberstein), her younger sister, agrees to take her into her home, which she shares with her husband Luc, his father and their little girls.
As suspicion and caution eventually gives way to trust and friendship, Juliette begins to put her life back on track, while attempting to deal with the ghosts of her past.
Philippe Claudel’s film works best if you don’t know what the tragedy is underpinning the story. But even if you find out, there’s still plenty to admire – not least in Thomas’ central role.
When we first meet Juliette, she wears the look of a haunted woman – someone who has all but given up on life and the family who once turned its back on her. As Lea lets her back in, however, a sense of happiness returns as Juliette’s life begins a rebirth and healing of sorts… even though the truth about her past is always lingering underneath the surface.
Thomas never once overplays the role, or gives in to any moments of hysteria, allowing her face and actions to do most of the work, enabled by Claudel’s silent camera.
The film is a slow-burning piece that might test the patience of some viewers, but for those willing to invest themselves in the lives of the sisters it’s a richly rewarding journey that gives rise to a genuinely powerful, even moving, conclusion.
Praise, too, deserves to go to Zylberstein, whose similarly nuanced portrayal of younger sister Lea is every bit as brilliant as Thomas’ leading role. Together, they make a formidable couple whose journey towards reunion and even redemption offers a real treat for fans of performance cinema.
In French, with subtitles
Running time: 115mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: February 9, 2009