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I've Loved You So Long


Year: 2008 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 12A Cert – Under 12s admitted only with an adult 
Subtitles: It is expected that this film is fully subtitled. 
Directed by Philippe Claudel 
Starring: Kristin Scott Thomas, Elsa Zylberstein, Serge Hazanavicius.  
An image from I've Loved You So Long

Juliette (Scott Thomas) has spent 15 years away from her family, who rejected her. But she finds grace through her sister, Lea (Elsa Zylberstein), and slowly finds her place in a new family group. I've Loved You So Long is not about Juliette's story as much as it is about her sister's family's reaction to her arrival. The tensions it creates are visible, and a film which could have been just another melodramatic piece turns into a series of strong confrontations. The mystery around Juliette's past adds to the strength of these verbal exchanges, but is in no way central to the film. While this assumed choice could be seen as a let-down for those who expect a conventional drama, it reinforces in fact the focus of the work on the inter-human relations within the new family group.

This approach, while not frequent, is still not quite a novelty in the written medium. It is no surprise, then, that it comes from a first-time director, Philippe Claudel, who has penned many successful novels. This unconventional background allows for a film which is both original, has a strong footing and knows where it is going. In the tradition of French dramas, I've loved You So Long does not bother with grandiose backdrops or unnecessary extras - instead its focus is the relatively small family cell, and it is footed in reality and everyday life. The photography, aiming for a very bright but not too colourful environment, adds to the realism. A film which works on such a small scale, however, needs excellent actors: performance is usually the make-or-break test of French drama. Luckily, Philippe Claudel managed to hire two top-of-the-class actresses - the world-famous Kristin Scott Thomas, and French star Elsa Zylberstein. Both elevate the film to a tribute to humane values, family and friendship.

Pierre Schramm

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Screenings of this film:

2008/2009 Summer Term (35mm)