Sunday, February 15, 2009
I've Loved You So Long
Sometimes it is the subtle things in a movie that strike me. Simple things like the hardness Kristen Scott Thomas brings to her character, Juliette Fontaine, early in I've Loved You So Long. Some might call it a coldness, either way, it is a combination of her eerie silence combined with excellent make-up. As her experiences change, she softens. Her hair is more vibrant, her make up brings out her features and her overall appearance shed years of trouble.
Other times, it is the broader themes that leave an impression upon me. Strong characters that interact with plausibility generally make a good film. I've Loved You So Long provides characters that generate interest. Things are not always what they seem in this film, either. Without using dramatic plot twists, the film slowly provides details about the different characters, connecting with the audience along the way. The darkness that sometimes dwells in people may not always be visible...a concept that this film explores. The resulting effect of the writing is a script that reaches into the heart of the audience, often squeezing emotion with it's grip. Philip Claudel created an excellent story which he brought to life as both writer and director.
I've Loved You So Long combines the subtle with an excellent broader theme. It is a delicate balancing act, but this film manages to pay close attention to detail, weaving in a healthy dose of subtle imagery and supporting concepts. Meanwhile, the major theme of the story never gets lost in the details. The minutiae provides depth to the story but remains a supporting factor. I have seen plenty of films that get so wrapped up in delivering the existential that I get lost in the flurry of details, missing major plot concepts. I applaud I've Loved You So Long for managing these two issues exceptionally well. I was captivated.
I've Loved You So Long begins with two sisters reuniting after a lengthy separation. As the story progresses, we learn that Juliette has been in prison for fifteen years for committing an unthinkable crime. Her sister Lea (Elsa Zylberstein) has invited Juliette to stay with her while she get stabilized. An unusual situation compounded by the fact that Elsa was young when Juliette went to prison, and was not allowed to visit. Lea's one visit in fifteen years was recent...to invite Juliette to stay with her.
The relationship between these two characters develops slowly, with childhood memories cloudy. It is almost like Lea has forgotten Juliette. Lea's husband, Luc (Serge Hazanavicius) seems uneasy about the situation, but makes adjustments over time. Juliette finds potential love interest in Lea's co-worker Michel (Laurent Grevill) as well as the Police Captain who she must check in with bi-weekly, Captain Faure (Frederic Pierrot). Juliette is exposed to Lea's circle of friends who are curious regarding the sudden appearance of a sister they did not know existed. The tension of trying to keep her past a secret creates another level of anxiety for both sisters. As the relationships evolve, we learn that those who appear dark may really contain light, while those with light contain a simmering darkness. A juxtaposition of sorts. The story is touching and powerful.
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