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I've Loved You So Long 

Kristin Scott Thomas shines in this melodrama about starting over

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The directorial debut of French novelist Phillipe Claudel is a domestic melodrama interwoven with a mystery. Two adult sisters reunite, after one of them, Juliette (Kristin Scott Thomas), returns from a 15-year prison term to stay with the other, the trusting Léa (Elsa Zylberstein), who was a child when Juliette was sent away. The narrative gradually reveals Juliette's crime, its consequences and, finally, its origins. As the layers peel away from Juliette's past, so too do she and those close to her appear to blossom, when, of course, truths are finally confronted. This is tricky material that could have tipped into bathos, but is handled with restraint. (I even forgave the clichés: Must all contemporary French dramas be set among lively academics with gourmet kitchens in charming old homes?) Claudel's film is chiefly a showcase for Scott Thomas, whose unadorned face runs a full gamut of emotions, even as her character remains mostly taciturn. In French, with subtitles. Regent Square. Starts Fri., Jan. 16.

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