Lea (Elsa Zylberstein) picks up her older sister Juliette (Kirstin Scott Thomas) from prison. She has been serving a prison sentence for 15 years. Juliette moves in with Lea, Lea’s husband and children where she wrestles with trying to acclimate to a family she has never truly known,overcome her own personal demons and find a comfortable place in society.
This is actually a hard movie to describe and still have it sound interesting, and, believe me, it is an interesting film. Hopefully my description above does it some justice. I could have described it as after 15 years in prison, a woman moves in with her sister and absolutely nothing happens that involves action, retribution, suspense, criminal activity, falling from grace or just about anything that typically jazzes up an ex-con film. In fact, this film needs absolutely none of this and finds its way just fine.
Suspense in this film is aptly replaced by subtle and not so subtle tensions delivered through terse but empathetic one on one dialog and smoldering, underplayed emotion.
Kirstin Scott Thomas acts so well in this film that you don’t need her (or the makeup team or the director for that matter) to tell you that Juliette has had a hard life. She looks stunning but also slightly gaunt, withdrawn and troubled. Thomas doesn't express this angst vocally or through obvious motions. Her torture seems to seep out of her from deep within, something only the best of actors on their best of days could pull off.
Elsa Zylberstein, while outshined by Thomas, does a terrific job. Her part could be easily, perhaps rightfully, overplayed but she holds back just enough. She plays the touching, patient sister Lea, whose innocence tells you she knows nothing of Juliette’s past life and is aware that she might upset some balance in Juliette by burdening Juliette about her experiences or preaching to her. Zylberstein’s touching gestures, deep felt emotions and innocent aura is a lesson that we don’t need miles of verbal explanation in film. Sometimes the eyes say it all.
This is a heck of film that doesn't need, nor asks for a roller coaster ride or all contrived ups and downs typically thrown into such a movie.
I confess though, like so many film endings, there is preachy teary revelation at the conclusion of “I’ve Loved You Song Long” . I’ll let you decide if this revelation is too tidy or obvious. I’m a bit torn. Does such a fine, and heavy at times, film deserve more ? Regardless, the ending does not at all mire an excellent piece of film making. Check it out sometime and let us know.