I’ve Loved You So Long
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Length: 117 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85 1080p
Languages: French, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
The most difficult time was the end. The last few weeks, after they told me I was coming out. I kept having the same nightmare. With my suitcase, I walked out and I was in the middle of nowhere. There was nobody. Just emptiness.
Love can sometimes force people to make difficult – gut-wrenching, even – decisions. Juliette Fontaine (Kristin Scott Thomas) is a middle-aged Frenchwoman who has just been released after spending 15 years in prison. After her arrest she was divorced by her husband and disowned by her parents. Now she has nowhere to go except to live with her sister, Lea (Elsa Zylberstein), who was still a child when Juliette was incarcerated. Lea is a college professor who lives comfortably with her husband, Luc (Serge Hazanavicius) and their adopted Vietnamese daughters. The reunion is an awkward one. Juliette’s parents never spoke of her after her conviction and Lea was prohibited from writing to Juliette in prison. Until Lea visited her shortly before her release, Juliette did not have a single visitor while she was a prisoner.
Under such circumstances, Juliette discovers that her assimilation into society is not going to be easy. Her only relatives are strangers to her. She needs to find a job, but in spite of help from a government counselor she finds that her past has a tendency to get in the way. Initially, the only person Juliette can have a meaningful discussion with is the police captain (Frederic Pierrot) she is required to meet with on a regular basis. Luc is not thrilled about having Juliette in the house and does not trust her. The children find “Auntie” to be cold and unreceptive. Uncomfortable situations abound as unknowing friends of Luc and Lea question where Juliette has been for so many years.
Ultimately, Juliette’s redemption depends upon the unconditional love of Lea. Although she has never known the full details of Juliette’s crime, Lea is determined to support her in any way possible. She introduces Juliette to Michel (Laurent Grevill), a colleague who is immediately attracted to her. Juliette, however, seems determined to remain emotionally distant. It is only through the empathy and understanding that she receives from Michel and an unexpected discovery made by Lea that Juliette begins to lower the barriers which she has erected.
I’ve Loved You So Long is a fascinating character study which is dominated by Kristin Scott Thomas, whose tour-de-force performance has received many accolades, including a “Best Leading Actress” nomination from BAFTA. Thomas, incidentally, is fluent in both English and French, and she dubbed her own voice on the English soundtrack. She is ably supported by Elsa Zylberstein as a woman who desperately wants to regain the sister she lost so many years ago.
This is a difficult film to categorize. There are no shocking revelations, no surprising plot twists. Juliette’s journey is slow, painful, and marked by many starts and stops. Nevertheless, it is a powerful small film which is likely to resonate with you long after you view it.
The 1.85:1 1080p transfer is superb. Fine detail is excellent, allowing the viewer to see the anguish on Juliette’s face as she tries to cope with her new life. During one scene of a drive in the country, you literally can count the blades of long grass as they wave in the wind. Colors appear to be solid and accurate, flesh tones are spot on, and contrasts are very good. Black levels are strong and shadow detail is quite satisfactory. Several scenes take place in low light situations and I never felt that I was not seeing anything of significance. Overall, this is another solid Blu-ray effort from Sony.
I prefer to watch foreign language films in their original languages, with English subtitles. I found the English subtitles to be easy to read. Nevertheless, the English soundtrack is quite satisfying. As noted, Kristin Scott Thomas dubbed her own voice for the English soundtrack, and the other English voices are well-done. This is a low-key drama, so the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack will not tax your sound system in either language, but the ambient sound in various scenes is effective and the musical soundtrack is given an expansive soundstage.
The only real extra here is a series of deleted scenes which can be viewed with a commentary track by writer/director Philippe Claudel. He concisely explains why each of the scenes did not make the final cut. Also included are the film’s theatrical trailer and eight trailers for other films.
There will be some BD-Live features which will be accessible on the release date.
The single disc is secured in a standard Blu-ray keepcase.
The Final Analysis
I’ve Loved You So Long is not for everyone. However, it is for those who appreciate realistic character studies and enjoy watching superb actors at their best.
Equipment used for this review:
Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
Sharp LC-42D62U LCD display
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
BIC Acoustech speakers
Interconnects: Monster Cable
Release Date: March 3, 2009