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Oct042009

Il y a longtemps que je t'aime 

Il y a longtemps que je t'aime (2008) French

(I've Loved You So Long)

Directed by Philippe Claudel

Written by Philippe Claudel

 

Starring:

Kristin Scott Thomas, Elsa Zylberstein, Serge Hazanavicius, Laurent Grévill , Frédéric Pierrot

 

This film, which won the 2009 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards, Best Film Not in the English Language award, with nominations for Kristin Scott Thomas as Best Actress, the London Critics Circle Film Awards and European Film Awards Best Actress awards for Kristin Scott Thomas, a Cesar Award Best First Film for Philippe Claudel and Best Supporting Actress for Elsa Zylberstein, as well as Golden Globe nominations for Best Film and Best Actress Performance in a Drama for Kristin Scott Thomas, is unforgettable. Watching the film at home, with admittedly no prior knowledge of its content or its quality, I was immediately struck by the similarity to The Reader, not so much in terms of its plot, though there are some distant thematic resemblances, but in terms of its tone. The performance by Kristin Scott Thomas is without doubt as powerful as that of Kate Winslet and no one in The Reader equals the supporting effort of Elsa Zylberstein, who plays Thomas’ sister.

 

Thomas’ character, Juliette, has just returned from 15 years in prison to live, temporarily, with her younger sister. While Thomas’ crime is not immediately revealed to us, we are made aware that it is serious, that she is damaged, either by the crime or by her stay in prison, or both, and that her younger sister is unconditionally committed to loving and helping her, despite the objections of her husband. The crime for which Thomas was imprisoned was so horrible that her husband divorced her and her parents disowned her and refused to allow her sister to communicate with her, for which the younger sister, Lea, feels guilt.

 

Juliette is stoic, sometimes angry, often sad, and feels little need to explain herself to anyone. We learn that her crime was the murder of her own son. From the moment the audience realizes this, we are anxious about the safety of Juliette’s sister’s two adopted children, the oldest of which has a tendency to pry into her aunt’s life.

 

With tension in the background, we watch Juliette try to reassemble a life. We learn she was a doctor, but can no longer practice. She is befriended by one of her sister’s colleagues, who is romantically interested in her and by her own parole officer, who has his own difficulties, who attempts to reach out to her, and who eventually takes his own life, to her shock and dismay. Juliette's and Lea’s mother has Alzheimer’s disease and has forgotten the incident that led to her disowning Juliette, but barely recognizes either of her daughters.

 

The moments of adjustment and readjustment for Juliette are painful to watch and, for her part, Juliette is so overwhelmed with chronic and profound depression that she is, to this audience member’s relief, less affected by the cruelty that sometimes is shown her, than we are. But gradually, through the mechanism of time and the efforts of truly loving and giving friends and relatives, especially Lea and her children, Juliette struggles back to life. On top of this, there is a surprise revelation, which changes every attitude both the characters and the audience have developed, but this cannot be revealed in a review such as this.

 

This is a marvelous, powerful film with brilliant performances and I recommend it to everyone.

 

Casey Dorman

 

Reader Comments (3)

I loved this movie too Casey...Kristin Scott-Thomas' portrayal was understated-but well-developed..

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