kristin-scott-thomasIn the French film “I’ve Loved You So Long,” Kristin Scott Thomas plays a woman who completes a lengthy prison sentence, only to realize she’ll always be held captive by the consequences of her past choices. It’s a mystery told through the prism of domestic drama. We meet Thomas’s character, Juliette, on the day of her release, not knowing why she was incarcerated. We watch her emotionally awkward reunion with her protective younger sister, Lea, who welcomes Juliette into her home despite the misgivings of Lea’s husband. We see her learning to connect with others: her sister, her parole officer, her coworkers, her widowed mother, a gentleman friend who fancies her and, most touchingly, Lea’s young daughter. Along the way, director Philippe Claudel clues us in as to how this seemingly kind woman wound up behind bars, but it isn’t until the final moments of the film – in an wrenching confrontation between Juliette and Lea – that we learn the devastating truth. The film is slowly paced, and I’ll confess to dozing off for a few moments early in the movie. (Regular viewers of “The Chris Baker Show” will learn this is a frequent occurrence.) But don’t give up on “So Long;” the climactic scene between Lea and Juliette gives the movie a satisfying conclusion and shows why Thomas could be an Oscar contender. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for Thomas’s physical transformation during the course of the film. At the beginning of the movie, she is shockingly drab, so much so that I barely recognized her. Claudel keeps her hidden behind a frumpy overcoat in several scenes, but by the end of the movie, once Juliette has taken her halting steps toward a normal life, she lightens up – figuratively and literally – and sheds that awful coat. Sadly, it seems she’ll never fully shed her haunting past.

My rating: Four out of five French cigarettes