Juliette Fontaine (Dame Kristin Scott Thomas) was in prison for fifteen years. Confronted with the unexpected goodness of her younger sister Léa (Elsa Zylberstein), who makes Juliette a part of her family, very slowly breaks up Juliette's ice and bitterness and she carefully opens up.
[All trivia items for this title are spoilers.]
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We were there! Didn't we matter?
Do you think others matter then - that one cares what they think or do? You were all well and alive! You belonged to the kind one comes to hate for the mere fact that they are there.
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This may be the film that makes Kristin Scott Thomas's reputation as not a good actress but a great one. It is a French film, and one has to accept the parameters of French 'intimisme'; as such it is wonderful. It is not a question of being a parent or not: it's a question of being ready or not to be swept out of one's daily self by great acting. Elsa Zylberstein is a fine actress (I remember her with affection in 'Farinelli'), but Scott Thomas here surpasses anything she has done before. She is capable, we knew, of making herself nearly ugly ('Angels and Insects'); she can do understated sensitivity ('Four Weddings and a Funeral'); here she gets a part of the emotional power of a Medea or a Phaedra and plays it with the let-it-rip force of a great tragédienne. The film is a vehicle for an actress, and none the worse for that. It is not unworthy of her, and that may be the best one can say of Claudel's work; but that may just be enough. There was a curiously fugitive quality to KST's interviews about this film: one got the impression she didn't really want to talk about it in more than mundane depth. One can see why. It all goes very near the bone. She may want to do a sheer glorious comedy next, just to remind us all of the blithe side of her nature. Long may she live, and work.
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