I’ve Loved You For So Long (2008)
I’ve Loved You For So Long (Il y a Longtemps Que Je)(FR) Directed by Phillipe Claudel. Written by Phillipe Claudel. Starring Kristen Scott Thomas; Elsa Zylberstein; Serge Hazanavicus; Laurent Grevill; Frederic Pierrot; Claire Johnston
Phillipe Claudel’s debut is a searing drama about a woman coming out of prison after serving fifteen years. The set-up is obviously a big one, but Claudel’s handling is subtle and deft. Kristin Scott Thomas as Juliette is spellbinding in the lead role, playing a woman overcome with heart-wrenching pain, regret, and sadness. It is actually (despite the best actress BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations) a critically underrated performance, powerfully quiet and umannered, and is undoubtedly one of Thomas’s best, as well as one the finest of the year. Those who serve extended prison sentences are rarely the same afterwards, and Thomas does a splendid job embodying the mien of someone long accustomed to being divorced from society, and minus warmth, humor, and simply everyday human interaction. Elsa Zylberstein is superb as university professor sister Lea, who feels tremendous guilt for not remaining in her older sister’s life. Juliette carries on with a kind of survivor’s pride, refusing to allow anyone to get close enough to hurt her, and tolerating only so much inquisition. As we begin to see her adjusting to life on the outside, and starting to re-discover herself, there are many wonderful moments to be savored. The depression, sadness, and confusion exhibited by some of the people Juliette encounters poignantly demonstrates that unhappiness and dissatisfaction are universal maladies afflicting a cross-section of human beings, regardless of education, wealth, or professional success. Life has many surprises in store for us, and not all of them are good. The relationship between the Lea and Juliette, and those between Juliette and the people in Lea’s well-established life are believable and multi-layered. Nothing is obvious or easily come by, and there is no attempt in Claudel’s finely attenuated screenplay to paint heroes or villains. A moving and rewarding film experience. One of the best films of the year.