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3 reviews, 2 user ratings

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I've Loved You So Long
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by Lybarger

"See for yourself what the Academy voters neglected."
4 stars

If most filmmakers can be accused of spoon-feeding information to their viewers, French writer-director Philippe Claudel practically forces his audience to forage for it.

Fortunately, the process of piecing together his debut film "I've Loved You So Long" is satisfying in itself. Every revelation feels earned, and the movie offers emotional rewards that make solving the puzzle worth it.

The main reason to catch this film, however, is to catch a quietly engrossing performance by British actress Kristin Scott Thomas, who was unfairly snubbed in this year's Oscar competition.

Perhaps this is because she rarely goes into any long monologues or “award show” outbursts that tend to result in statuettes.

If you’ve never seen much of Scott Thomas’ work, the performance is a stretch. In most of her previous movies like "The English Patient" and "Gosford Park," she’s played glamorous socialites. Her makeup here is low-key, and her wardrobe is drab. And yet she can hold a viewer’s attention with just a shrug or a sigh.

When we first encounter her character Juliette Fontaine, she’s sitting at an airport waiting for a ride. She says little as her more talkative sister Léa (Elsa Zylberstein) takes her home.

If Juliette doesn’t utter much, it’s because the house she’s living in takes some getting used to. Her husband Luc (Serge Hazanavicius) seems polite but cold, and Luc’s father has been rendered mute by a stroke. Their adopted children unknowingly ask Juliette some questions that she’s uneasy about answering.

Juliette may be overwhelmed by her surroundings, but she’s actually lucky to be where she is. As we gradually learn, she’s just been released from prison.

Claudel, who until recently was better known as a novelist, slowly reveals how Juliette has wound up in her current predicament.

Scott Thomas helps Claudel keep viewers guessing because the range of emotions she runs through during the film is wide even if not particularly showy. Juliette can seem wounded and meek at one moment and scary the next. She is understandably aloof (people around her wonder if she’s really reformed), but her eyes light up slightly when she thinks she can confide in someone.

It takes a while to decide if Juliette is likeable, but she’s undeniably fascinating. Claudel also creates intriguing supporting characters, and his actors consistently make them believable.

The story is loaded with tension because Léa’s unwavering support is contrasted by Luc’s understandable wariness. In addition, Juliette’s relationship with her parole officer (Frédéric Pierrot) might have made an interesting movie in itself. She also catches the eye of one of Léa’s coworkers (Laurent Grevill), which has unexpected results.

Claudel’s eye for character may have come from spending over a decade teaching women who had been incarcerated. As a result, "I’ve Loved You So Long" feels convincing even when jolting developments occur.

Claudel eventually explains Juliette’s situation. While the solution is thankfully credible, the mystery that has guided the film is more involving than the conclusion.

Nonetheless, Claudel and Scott Thomas prove that a well-delivered whisper can be more resonant than a scream.

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originally posted: 01/26/09 10:45:05
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/06/09 Bert Kaplan this is a good, sad, beautiful movie 5 stars
3/17/09 Sevarian Superb acting in a powerful film 5 stars
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  24-Oct-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 03-Mar-2009


  DVD: 03-Mar-2009

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