2008 // France // Philippe Claudel // November 11, 2008 // Theatrical Print
B - Kristin Scott Thomas is the skin, flesh, and bone of I've Loved You So Long. Director Philippe Claudel, in his first feature film, is keenly aware of how central his lead actress is to the potency of this studious, intimate drama of forgiveness, forgetting, and starting over. Thomas' presence hovers over every moment of the film. Claudel spends long minutes waiting with a cinematic exhale caught in his throat, savoring the way Thomas glances, sighs, smokes, and stands. The entire story—of a woman's entry into her younger sister's family life following a prison sentence—seems to lie in the veteran actress' eyes, so sharp, luminous, and haloed with middle-aged wear and beauty. Never mind the hackneyed bits and dramatic missteps. (Wine-lubricated confession at a French dinner party? Check! Tear-smudged, slightly underwhelming revelation? Check!) Also marvelous are Laurent Grévill and Frédéric Pierrot, who charm Thomas' Juliette in scenes scripted with distinctly Gallic confidence and deep currents of hope. I've Loved You So Long just might be the film of Thomas' career. It succeeds despite an unsatisfying final act and too much narrative thumb-twiddling. It succeeds because Thomas is just that damn good, and Claudel bottles every spark she generates.