“I’ve Loved You So Long” – Susan Granger reviews

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Oscar-nominated for “The English Patient” and seen most recently in “Tell No One,” Kristen Scott Thomas delivers a low-key, powerhouse portrayal of a woman with a secret past in this downbeat yet rewarding French melodrama.

The story opens in a deserted airport terminal in Nancy in the province of Alsace-Lorraine, where pallid Juliette (Scott Thomas) sits smoking and waiting. Shoulders hunched over, drably dressed and devoid of makeup, she’s the picture of desperation and despair. Soon another woman rushes in. It’s her cheery younger sister Lea (Elsa Zylberstein), a college professor. But it’s obvious that the two women hardly know one another.

Awkwardly, Lea takes Juliette home to meet her wary husband, Luc (Serge Hazanavicius), two adopted Vietnamese daughters (Lise Segur, Lily-Rose) and father-in-law (Jean-Claude Arnaud), left mute by a stroke. It seems Lea was a teenager when Juliette was convicted of killing her six year-old son and has spent 15 years in prison. That’s a shame-filled, ‘forbidden’ topic which Lea has never discussed with her family and friends. Above all, there’s the mystery: why did Juliette commit this horrific crime?

Reluctant to discuss the past, tormented yet poised Juliette must now cope with her troubled parole officer (Frederic Pierrot), the task of finding a job and tentatively building an intimate relationship with Lea’s lonely widower colleague (Laurent Grevill).

While screenwriter and first-time director Philippe Claudel scores in casting Kristen Scott Thomas, who subtly grounds her reserved performance in reality, his grief and guilt-ridden script is full of all-too-convenient contrivances, augmented by Jean-Louis Aubert’s foreboding musical score. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “I’ve Loved You So Long” is a sorrowful 7. It’s a psychological character study of a rebirth that’s rooted in resilience and rehabilitation.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.