Take a Drink: for meetings with Social Services
Take a Drink: whenever prison is referred to
Take a Drink: whenever other countries or nationalities get a mention
Take a Drink: for parties
Take a Drink: when Juliette shows a darker edge
Take a Drink: whenever Lea’s husband freaks out about something
Do a Shot: when you discover Juliette’s entire story
By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Kristin Scott Thomas has always fascinated me- a respected thespian equally adept and beloved in the English and French-speaking worlds, now dividing her time almost equally between them. She’s English, but when she was told by a drama teacher that she’d never make it as an actress, she moved to France to be an au pair, polished her French until it was functionally flawless, and ultimately made her dream a reality in both languages. Stupid drama teachers.
Just keep believing, guys, just keep believing.
I’ve Loved You So Long may be her finest hour. In it she stars as a woman paroled from prison after 15 years for an at first unspecified crime. She moves in with her younger sister (Elsa Zylberstein), who for a long time was forbidden to visit her in prison, and begins the long, hard process of readjusting to society and repairing long-damaged relationships.
This is a slow-burning film, both in its drama and the mystery of why she committed the crime that she did, but that’s precisely why its dramatic and tragic revelations hit you like a freight train barreling out of the darkness. There’s a melancholy and a humanity to the film that really feels genuine.
You can thank the acting, particularly Kristin Scott Thomas’s, for this. Director Philippe Claudel presides over some nice shots (that first reflection in a dirty mirror), but his main accomplishment is establishing a tone (Jean-Louis Aubert’s strummy, moody score contributes hugely to this as well) and then getting out of his actors’ way. Zylberstein and Serge Hazanavicius both turn in authentic supporting performances, but it’s Kristen Scott Thomas all day, baby.
That this is the same woman blows my mind.
She’s reserved, but obviously harboring a deep pain that she considers a private one. She’s haunted… and haunting, especially when we discover the nature of her crimes. How could this woman do something like that? The strength of her performance is in how we never lose our empathy for her. The more we learn about her, the more questions we have, and the more we want them answered, hopefully in a way that will give this poor woman some peace and healing.
I’ve Loved You So Long is largely plotless- it’s entirely focused on character, which isn’t bad per-say. Sometimes, though, it feels like it’s retreading the same dour territory over and over, or trying to spice things up with pointless conflict like Elsa’s husband’s herky-jerky hostility towards Scott Thomas. The screenplay’s a bit of a liability that isn’t felt because of the capable hands it’s in, but with lesser talent it would have been much more exposed.
So, keep Shawn Levy away from it…
Ultimately, what determined the quality of this film was the resolution to its big questions… which for me it flubbed badly. It raises more questions than it answers, and paradoxically makes Scott Thomas less likable when the intention is to justify her decisions. Like maybe 75% of drama (and 100% of poorly written drama) it hinges on an entirely unnecessary, and perhaps even selfish lack of communication.
I’ve Loved You So Long is a spectacular showcase for the talents of Kristin Scott Thomas, even if it’s ultimately an unsatisfying drama overall.