Film review: I’ve Loved You So Long

I’ve Loved You So Long
2008
UGC YM, Integral Film

STARRING Kristin Scott Thomas, Elsa Zylberstein
WRITTEN BY Philippe Claudel
PRODUCED BY Yves Marmion
DIRECTED BY Philippe Claudel

SHOT BY Jérôme Alméras
MUSIC BY Jean-Louis Aubert
EDITED BY Virginie Bruant
DISTRIBUTED BY UGC Distribution

Screened 2008-10-21

Poor Juliette (Thomas) has been rotting for 15 years in prison for the murder of her 6 year old child, and is finally released nto the care of her loving sister Lea (Zylberstein). Starting here [A], we will move laterally 110 minutes to [B] where we return to the murder and, inexorably, its motivation. From [A], a taciturn and hopelessly depressed Juliette beds at Lea’s home with her prickly hubby and two adorable adopted Viet-kids. Lea begins to retrain Juliette on the motions of civilized existence and a few side characters are introduced, some sensitive (Juliette’s dopey social worker), others not so much (the handful of employers who cannot forgive her but can forget her). In truth the narrative beats can be predicted a mile away, but clearly that’s not what this film is about; it is Thomas’s face that carries all the film’s weight and tells its entire story. We see Juliette as a living corpse – sallow sunken eyes, long extinguished, and a silent baleful expression which seems to experience the passing of time at a wholly different pace than those around her; Juliette’s soul has been crippled by loss. Lea, delicate and nervous, is a vessel of love who works to reforge the bond between herself and her sister, and learns that the depth of her sister’s love is more profound than anybody who knows her had imagined.

Loved is a strong Thomas vehicle, but beyond that is little more than a director’s first effort, plagued by those forgivable, if taxing, amateur errors: 1) beat-by-beat training wheel progression of events, 2) a virtual complete lack of cinematographic artistry, 3) unnecessary edits lacking emotional impetus and, 4) a wimpy acoustic guitar score that your college freshman roommate surely wrote. It isn’t awful, I suppose it’s a passable essay to the instructor. There’s no question that Thomas has succeeded at playing a woman whose spirit has been extinguished – my nitpicky criticism is only that her performance alone doesn’t make me want to watch the film again.

The issues behind the film’s events, however, definitely got me thinking… that being the truly insane reality of prison and its aftereffects. Rehabilitation? Obliterating the spirit that allows people to live and removing them from the society that claims the right to their life in the first place… I do wonder under what circumstances these punishments fit the crimes that led to them. This reviewer has no suggestion (yet) for a better solution than prisons, all he knows is that evil is when humans choose to make others suffer – and that’s what justice is: punishment. I digress. And Loved only intends to make one seriously ponder the effects of incarceration in the second place. I will provide a brief spoiler and say that the film really only builds to its final reveal twist, which pigeonholes Loved as another social issue film. What I took from the film was a reminder of the unwillingness of people to deal with any extreme elements in their nature, and the emotional tragedies resulting from shutting one another out. But that message is so much more fun to think about when I watch A Clockwork Orange

written by David Ashley

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