Meandering along in the most achingly anxious manner, Philippe Claudel's spry little family drama-cum-curious enigma, I've Loved You So Long, is Hitchcock, by way of Chabrol, done in the most typically aloof French style.
When we first meet protagonist (or is it antagonist) Juliette, she is sitting alone smoking a cigarette in an airport lounge, her gaze lost in another world. After an almost unbearably lengthy period (it's not really that long, but she looks so alone that it seems an eternity) a woman comes rushing in and the two women, wordless but for a trepidation laden peck on the cheek, go off together. We get no explanation as to who these women are, just that they have not seen each other in a while and at least one of them isn't so happy about their reunion. So this is the film. Bit by bit, little by little, like a band-aid being pulled off in the most gentle yet infuriatingly lengthy way, we find out who these two women are and what their past is and why there is so much unspoken tension between them. Like a storyteller who doesn't want his audience to wander off for lack of revelatory hints and sneak peeks, Claudel inches his story along, never lacking for a new twist or answer along the way.
And it is a fluently French speaking Kristin Scott Thomas, part Stanwyck part Huppert, who pulls this dispassionate character, with all her secrets and pains, off with what may very well be the performance of her career so far. Dangerously imperturbable with such an obviously eternal burden upon her shoulders, Scott Thomas' Juliette is like a glass figurine, so strong and stoic, yet ready to fall into a million pieces at the slightest reminiscence of what she has done in her hidden, black past. In sum, despite a somewhat cheap and tidy ending that stylistically goes against all that came before, Scott Thomas' portrayal of such a forlorn character combined with Claudel's tempered pace-driven direction, come together to form a mostly ravishing psychological drama done in the most detached French manner. [12/11/08]