Monday, November 02, 2009

Monday Movie Review: I've Loved You So Long

I've Loved You So Long (Il y a longtemps que je t'aime) (2008) 8/10
Juliette (Kristin Scott Thomas) has just gotten out of prison after fifteen years, and moves in with her sister, brother-in-law, and young niece.

I've Loved You So Long is a quiet film, quietly watching a broken woman be...broken. We don't know about Juliette's crime at first; as an American viewer, I did not at first realize that 15 years was an incredibly long sentence in the French prison system; a French viewer would know right away that the crime must be terrible indeed. Yet it is quickly clear to anyone that the revelation of the crime will be the film's dramatic center. Perhaps the major flaw of the film is the obviousness of this structure: We know we're building to The Big Confession, and when it comes, there's a certain self-consciousness to it. Don't get me wrong: It's a moving scene, and Thomas is amazing, it's just that it's been over-broadcast; nothing can live up to a whole movie building to that one scene.


Which is a shame, because I've Loved You So Long excels in the small scenes. Thomas's acting is delicate, and as she struggles to interact in a normal way, as she seeks work, as she tries to joke, she reveals herself and her story without apparent effort. She is like a vision of feeling; so obviously agonized that the denouement is almost unnecessary. As we begin to know how terrible Juliette's crime is, we also can see, through her every pore, her regret and sorrow, and we cannot condemn her.

Of course, her family and the people who know her have struggles of their own. There is, apparently, a monster in their midst, but also a sister, a lovely woman, a friend. How to manage this contradiction?

Although freed from prison, Juliette is still imprisoned by her own deep loss and pain, and in allowing herself to be so raw, Kristin Scott Thomas shows us how many of us are truly imprisoned by invisible walls.

(I've cross-posted so long)