I remember Kristin Scott Thomas and her austere beauty from Four Weddings and a Funeral. Her character's love for Hugh Grant's character went unrequited. Here, she still possesses that same graveness in addition to boasting her French fluency--ooh la la.
The opening scene pans to Juliette (Kristin Scott Thomas). The camera closes in on her face--make-up-free, haggard, lacking emotion. It's clear she is waiting, but for whom? And why?
Juliette has just been released from prison where she's served 15 years for killing her then six-year-old son. Juliette's sister, Léa (Elsa Zylberstein), shows up to take her to Léa's. Although we don't yet know what happened, Léa is clearly full of joy and happy to have her sister back, but the nagging question remains...why did Juliette commit this heinous crime? We soon learn that Juliette's husband testified against her, her parents shunned her and her sister was brainwashed against her only sibling. Léa's husband isn't keen on having Juliette in their home with their two kids.
The first hour drags. I love that foreign films take their time telling stories, but there is a fine line. Almost as soon as the second hour kicked in, the movie picked up. The pieces began tying together. The sisters start getting past the informal, polite conversations into the nitty gritty. One felt shut out; the other abandoned. As they rebuild their relationship, Juliette struggles with integrating back into the world--work, men and friends. How does she explain her absence and sudden re-appearance? Eventually, you learn what happened with her son.
The movie delves into themes of connection, dreams and lost hopes. The acting is terrific. The turmoil felt by the sisters and a few secondary characters who become close to them is palpable. However, the movie could have easily been edited down 30 minutes. While I enjoyed it, it was too built up by the time I saw it and in the first hour, I lost some focus. This movie was nominated for two Golden Globes and heaps of other awards, so maybe I'm just a blowhard.
Director: Philippe Claudel
Run time: 120 minutes