There’s an old saying along the lines of “if you want to knock a nail in use a hammer.” Following the release of new film I’ve Loved You So Long another saying that could now enter the English language is “if you want to build your film around an emotionally distant female lead, hire Kristen Scott Thomas”.
Whilst Hollywood has failed to use her full potential, limiting her to repressed wives in loveless marriages, Director Philippe Claudel has realised her trademark icy detachment can be put to far more psychologically interesting use.
The film centres on Juliette Fontaine, newly released from prison after 15 years. Taken in by her younger sister Lea (Elsa Zylberstein) and family in a small Lorraine university town and initially defensive and institutionalised, she slowly learns to reconnect to the world through the kindness of family and friends.
Claudel refuses to make this a painless journey. Each step to her new life is accompanied by a shedding of skin and the more that is unveiled about her previous existence the more unanswered questions seem to be posed.
Scott Thomas has provided a career best performance in this film. Surrounded by an excellent supporting cast and supported by an insightful director she proves she can perform as more than a cipher and is capable of bringing a rounded, complex and above all human character to the screen.
It is to be hoped that in the future other directors have the insight of Philippe Claudel.
Review by Neil McEwan