I'VE LOVED YOU SO LONG
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Kristin Scott
Thomas, Elsa Zylberstein, Serge Hazanavicius, Jean-Claude Arnaud, Laurent
Grevill, Frederic Pierrot
Director: Philippe Claudel
Audio: French and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: Deleted Scenes, BD LIVE
Length: 117 Minutes
Release Date: March 3, 2009
“We could have helped you!”
“WHAT COULD YOU HAVE DONE?”
I’ve Loved You So Long is a sad, quiet movie about a family that struggles for a sense of normalcy in the face of a tragedy that remains unspoken for far too long. It was a film that led many critics to assume Kristin Scott Thomas would easily walk away with an Oscar statuette for her striking and memorable work, only to surprise everyone when she didn’t even garner a nomination.
She plays Juliette, and as the film opens, she is reunited with her sister Lea (Zylberstein) after a long absence. Why? Well, the movie takes its time in revealing its answers. The point is that neither Lea nor her husband Luc (Hazanavicius) ever really talk about what happened. Their two Vietnamese adopted daughters are more inquisitive, but to no avail. Sometimes we’d rather keep working at burying the past when confronting it would be so much healthier.
As the story progresses, we begin to learn. Juliette was in prison for fifteen years, and later we discover why. It’s not really until the final few minutes that the entire picture comes together, so we are left as observers without insight, studying these sad people for clues while everyone seems to be playing their cards close to the vest.
Fifteen years is a long time, and adjusting to society isn’t easy for Juliette, who was once a doctor, but now has parole obligations and a hard time finding work given her situation. A sympathetic parole officer (Pierrot) has his own sadness, and we also wonder whether Lea’s education colleague Michel (Grevill) can possibly be the catalyst to returning Juliette to the woman she once was, especially since we spend so long not knowing everything.
Sometimes ignoring the truth can be a prison in and of itself, and the happy moments in the film seem more like wistful reminders of what true bonds and freedom mean, even while Juliette remains withdrawn and unable to cope in a crowd.
This is a stirring film, but one that left me with questions when it was all over…considering what really happened in Juliette’s past, is it really believable that she would not share, even with her family, the truth that would finally let the light into all the dark places of their lives?
It isn’t really easy to ignore the elephant in the room, but we sometimes let ourselves think it’s for the best. Juliette’s secret holds the key to understanding and connection, but only those who don’t care about her even try to uncover it. Wishing never makes the pain go away.
It’s a splendidly acted and crafted film, and yes, Kristen Scott Thomas, seemingly as comfortable in French as she is in English, anchors the movie with a silently spellbinding performance that was worthy of all the accolades bestowed on her, and even the big one that was ultimately denied her.
This is quite a lovely high definition transfer from Sony…lots of crisp detail and natural looking color throughout; this might in fact be one of the most film-like presentations I’ve seen on home video. A few darker scenes show some unavoidable grain, but that’s a minor complaint at best.
For a dialogue driven picture, the TrueHD audio comes through with clarity and crispness. The overall tone of the film is quiet, so the few louder scenes make for nice contrast. You can opt for either original French or English dubbing in uncompressed audio, and Kristin Scott Thomas dubbed her own audio for the English track.
The disc includes seven deleted scenes with option commentary, a trailer, and BD LIVE extras for internet capable players.
Moving and thoughtful, I’ve Loved You So Long is a perfectly acted and thoughtful drama about the silences between us and all of the things that can hide there.