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I've Loved You So Long 

Unlike the histrionic sister act in Jonathan Demme's overcooked Rachel Getting Married, the siblings at the center of I've Loved You So Long — French writer Philippe Claudel's subtly stunning directorial debut — have just cause to hate one another. That they barely know each other as the film opens is only the first of its many slowly unfolding, deeply satisfying mysteries. Claudel, whose 2005 crime novel Grey Souls won multiple European literary awards, wrote the sensitive script, and he wrings more dramatic suspense than would seem possible from the plot of a woman (Kristin Scott Thomas) paroled from a lengthy prison term who must relearn how to live with her estranged sister's quirky family. Much of the credit goes to Thomas, a British character actress who was Oscar-nominated for The English Patient a dozen years ago but delivers a career-defining performance as Juliette, the dead-eyed convict whose unspeakable deed spools out in one small, sad conflict after another, each scene playing out as a masterpiece in miniature: a job interview that turns hostile; an awkward fling in a hotel; a devastating visit to a retirement home to see her senile mother; and an idyllic, turning-point trip to the countryside that morphs into an inquisition. Where was Juliette all these years, the needling, drunken host presses. Holed up in a Swiss convent? Was she an amnesiac? "I was in prison for 15 years, for murder," Juliette answers flatly. After a long pause, half the room bursts into laughter. The other half just sits in silence. "She's too good, I give up," the inquisitor sighs. Too good, indeed. — Noah Bonaparte Pais

I've Loved You So Long (PG-13)

Directed by Philippe Claudel

Starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Elsa Zylberstein, Serge Hazanavicius, Laurent Grévill and Frédéric Pierrot

In French with English subtitles

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