I’VE LOVED YOU SO LONG, a thoughtful, slow-fused meditation on guilt and shame, written & directed by Philippe Claudel and released to critical applause in 2008, takes some patience to get caught up in, but pays off to quiet effect by the time its 117 minutes conclude, the chief reward a superb front & center performance from Kristin Scott Thomas.
‘Juliette’ (Scott Thomas) comes to Lorraine, France to live with her long-estranged younger sister ‘Léa’ (Elsa Zylberstein) after spending 15 years in prison. Juliette hesitant and Léa hopeful, the sisters gingerly renew discarded bonds shattered by Juliette’s crime, one which so offends most she encounters that her awkward re-entry to society is fraught with extra suspicion and rejection. The nature of the crime and the lingering Why are revealed gradually, in dispassionately observed dramatic increments. The writing and direction build a series of small but wrenching defeats and qualified but precious victories that not only confront Juliette but challenge Léa’s husband, their young daughter and family friends. Sympathetic platonic interest comes from Juliette’s achingly lonely probation officer (Frédéric Pierrot) and an intrigued teaching colleague of Léa’s (Laurent Grévill).
Scott Thomas, her French so fluent and fluid you’d never guess she was from Cornwell, is exquisite at conveying—in the most minute gestures and expressions, through guarded body movements and delicate vocal inflection—the many and deep layers of pain Juliette’s spirit is buried under. She does so without letting viewer interest flag in what could in other hands be a one-note slog. Zylberstein is very good as her taxed and generous sister and there’s a particularly poignant turn from Pierrot as the kindly and sad ‘Capitaine Faure’.
A winner or nominee in many international awards venues, it came in 152nd place for 2008 with a world gross of $22,272,000 ($3,169,000 in the States). With Serge Hazanavicius, Lise Ségur and Jean-Claude Arnaud.