Sunday, January 25, 2009

I have loved you for so long

My first trip to The Cinema, to see I have loved you for so long. A beautiful, delicate debut by Phillipe Claudel.

We begin with Juliette, without makeup, dressed in grey, chain smoking in the impersonal surrounds of an airport. She is met by her much younger sister Lea, bright, generous and lively. This is a reunion after 15 years apart, years that Juliette spent in jail, for a crime so horrific nobody can bring themselves to mention it. I'm reluctant to reveal too much of the plot, as the film is crafted around quiet revelations - that could read like melodrama if stated baldly. Claudel manages the threads in his story with great dexterity and economy. So much of it is about watching, quietly observing the interactions between Juliette and the other characters. It is the small details that reveal so much: the putting out of a cigarette, making a bed, reading to a child. Says Claudel, of his approach to film: “it’s important to learn over again waiting, patience and even seeing.” Elsa Zylberstein as Lea is impressive. The nervous relationship between the two sisters is entrancing. But it is the breathtaking performance of Kristen Scott Thomas, as Juliette, that will have you spellbound. This is truly a magnificent performance of a complicated character. A quiet and humane film.

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