Sunday, April 19, 2009

I’ve Loved You So Long: Grade A

I’ve Loved You So Long (2008)
Kristin Scott Thomas, Elsa Zylberstein. Writer and director Philippe Claudel. (French, subtitled).

A woman (Thomas) is released from 15 years in prison and stays with her married sister (Zylberstein) and the extended family while she tries to re-enter society. Predictably, she has trouble finding anyone to hire an ex-con, and moreover, she is alienated from everyone and society, having been gone for so long. It is a realistic portrayal of such difficulties. As the woman talks with her sister and interacts with her family, we slowly learn the details of her life. Why did her sister never visit her in prison? Why is the sister’s husband afraid to leave her alone with their two young children? What crime did the woman commit, anyway? The information is revealed naturalistically over the course of the story in a very skillful way, and that provides just about the only dramatic tension in the movie. The relationships are very realistic, not a single false note. There is little music because the focus is intensely on the truth of the ex-con’s inner life without any gloss of artificial emotion. It will be a slow-moving story for Americans, as European films often are, but it is so deeply human that you never lose interest. Acting by Thomas is superb. The children are directed perfectly. After the movie, you will find yourself thinking about the human condition. For anyone who likes a very interior psychological study, this will be satisfying.

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