Wednesday, December 1, 2010

IL Y A LONGTEMPS QUE JE T'AIME
(I'VE LOVED YOU SO LONG)

Kristin Scott Thomas, Elsa Zylberstein


À la claire fontaine,
M'en allant promener
J'ai trouvé l'eau si belle
Que je m'y suis baigné

Refrain :
Il y a longtemps que je t'aime
Jamais je ne t'oublierai
I actually remember singing this song when I was a child in the mid 1980s growing up in Brussels, Belgium. The title of this French movie comes from a traditional folk song called "A La Claire Fontaine".

"I've Loved You So Long" is a tale of two sisters who are reunited after a long period of time. Juliette (Kristin Scott Thomas) has just been released from prison after a 15 year sentence for killing her son. Her younger sister, Lea a university professor picks her up from some terminal and drives her to her house. A spacious bungalow type where she lives with her husband, her father in law and her two adopted daughters who are of Vietnamese descent.

The enigmatic portrayal of Kristin Scott Thomas as the mysterious Juliette takes center stage in this slow revealing and dramatic story. Devoid of any make-up and adapting a morose demeanor, she speaks French fluently, we tend to forget she is British, after all. Her character Juliette wears a permanent look of glum resignation throughout the movie.

The quiet work between Thomas and Elsa Zylberstein, as Lea, is stunning to watch. Their quick glances, their awkward embrace, their entire body language informs viewers that while these sisters love one another, they don't know how to behave towards and with each other. As periods of incarceration and estrangement have separated the women for many years.

The movie tracks Juliette's tentative, almost unwilling progress back into society. As well as her coming to terms with her 'crime'. A very painful past which isn't revealed until the very end where she has a breakdown of sorts. A revealing moment that honestly took its time to be exposed to the viewers. Yet somehow when it is finally out in the open, you almost feel like you walked in on a secret that was never meant to be discovered.

Brilliant subtle acting from Kristin Scott Thomas salvages this French film from completely being a bore due to its slow pacing and depressing tones.

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