May 19, 2013
Written by Mark Schumann, Father of Three
Thursday, 07 May 2009 13:08
Looking for a movie to share with your family? Each week, the Reel Dad shares the “nutritional value” of a new release at the theater or on DVD. And, this week, he checks out I’ve Loved You So Long, now available on DVD.
Every year, at Oscar time, I get mad at the Academy for unfairly overlooking at least one performance or film in the nominations. Perhaps the work is dismissed because the film was released at the wrong time of the year — or it didn’t “generate the buzz” needed to gain attention. No matter the reason, the snubs often are more memorable than the winners.
In the recent Oscar sweepstakes to honor the best of 2008, Kristin Scott Thomas was, for some impossible-to-fathom reason, bypassed for her indelible turn as a recently-released prisoner in I’ve Loved You So Long. This lovely actress — best known for The English Patient — has found new career momentum in recent years in small British and French films. This time, she delivered a performance more authentic than Kate Winslet’s winning turn in The Reader, more surprising than Anne Hathaway’s diva in Rachel Getting Married, and more memorable than Melissa Leo’s desperation in Frozen River. Only Meryl Streep’s work in Doubt can compare to the lovely Thomas. Fortunately, for anyone trying to avoid the crowds at Wolverine, this newly released DVD offers the chance to savor the actress and her work in a thoughtful and compelling film.
Told without a dose of cloying sugar that could have marred the outcome, I’ve Loved You So Long introduces us to a damaged woman who leaves prison after 15 years to live with her estranged sister. As an audience, we get to know this fragile character in the same pace and manner as her new extended family; her behavior, at times inconsistent, slowly reveals layers of regret and sadness; her words, as spare as they are, fail to explain her crime or her passion. Only when we get to know how the character has changed in words and actions do we begin to learn the pain she has hidden for so many years.
It all could have been painfully obvious — given the ingredients of crime, sacrifice, bitterness and redemption. In the US it would have been a Lifetime movie on cable. But, in France, the restraint of thoughtful cinema prevails, and the story is authentically presented in a paced manner that enables the characters to naturally emerge. We are never asked, as viewers, to take sides in the proceedings, never given an opportunity to judge. And this purposeful ambiguity makes us think ever so carefully about how any of us would feel if we felt we had to make an ultimate, essential sacrifice, and had to pay the price for the rest of our lives.
There are no easy answers in I’ve Loved You So Long. No conventional narrative that ties up all the loose ends or photo montage that reveals the happy characters in years to come. There’s only the heartbreak of disconnection that any family can experience. And the hope that all of us live for.
So next time you contemplate rushing to the theater to see a summer action blockbuster, take a chance on this small film from France, with a moving message of what family can truly mean, and a perfect performance from the overlooked Kristin Scott Thomas.
Film Nutritional Value:
I’ve Loved You So Long
* Content: High. The film raises important, compelling questions about family, trust, change and intent.
* Entertainment: High. Even though the content is serious, the characters are human, and the family moments feel real.
* Message: High. We all question how we would act if we felt forced to do anything to protect someone we love. That’s the essence of the film.
* Relevance: High. For any parent who loves a child, the film rings true, as well as for any sibling who has wanted to protect a brother or sister.
* Opportunity for Dialogue: High. So many moments in the film, and its central themes, are most appropriate for discussion with older children.
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