Combustible Celluloid
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With: Kristin Scott Thomas, Elsa Zylberstein, Serge Hazanavicius, Laurent Grevill, Frederic Pierrot, Lise Segur, Jean-Claude Arnaud, Mouss Zouheyri, Souad Mouchrik, Catherine Hosmalin, Claire Johnston, Olivier Cruvellier
Written by: Philippe Claudel
Directed by: Philippe Claudel
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material and smoking
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 117
Date: 02/14/2008

I've Loved You So Long (2008)

2 Stars (out of 4)

The Wrath of Ex-Con

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Some Oscar buzz has generated around Kristin Scott Thomas for this role, presumably because she speaks fluent French, broods for the film's first half and has a big speech in its second half. (It's easy to pick out the "Oscar clip" moment.) Written and directed by Philippe Claudel, I've Loved You So Long is very thin and artificial; characters behave erratically and illogically for no other reason than to serve the forward thrust of the plot. Scenes begin innocuously so that something terrible can happen halfway through; it gives the impression of being staged, of specifically waiting for the drama to start (there's a lot of wasted film). Scott Thomas plays Juliette, a woman who is released from prison after a 15 year sentence, served for murdering her own son. She goes to stay with her younger sister, Lea (Elsa Zylberstein) and Lea's family, including two adopted Vietnamese girls. Juliette begins to integrate herself back into society, going on job interviews and sitting through dinner parties, while trying not to tell people what happened (her mystery only further deepens her allure). To his credit, Claudel pulls off some very nice moments, such as the climactic reveal, played without music and only the sound of rain on the windows. But many, many moments ruin the film's trust. In one very lame scene, Juliette rushes out of her bedroom, her coat sweeping over her bedside stand and knocking crucial plot-turning evidence on the floor. And why -- why? -- would Claudel make Juliette repeat her closing line, when once was perfect? About halfway through a minor character makes a big deal out of praising Eric Rohmer, but Rohmer would never make the rookie mistakes on display here.

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