Rating: Rated M (mature themes)
Highly recommended for audiences who appreciate a strong human drama. It is insightfully written, powerfully acted and impeccably crafted. If anyone has wondered about the screen presence and acting ability of Kristin Scott Thomas, then this performance should persuade them of her talent.
Novelist Philippe Claudel has created a screenplay with autobiographical elements but focuses on the relationship between two sisters. The older, Juliette (Kristin Scott Thomas) has been absent for fifteen years. The full details of her story are revealed only gradually, step by step, the final and full story coming at the end of the film. The younger sister, Leah (Elsa Zylberstein), a professor, married with two adopted Vietnamese daughters, welcomes her sister back. She has been alienated from Juliette by her parents but brings her into her home, an opportunity for rehabilitation.
The relationship between the sisters as they confront the past and try to beuild their love again is intensely moving.
The supporting cast is rich in characters: Leah’s initially reluctant husband, Luc; the reserved professor, Michel, who proves to be important in Juliette’s reconstructing her life; the talkative divorce police captain who wants to pour out his soul but ends in tragedy; Luc’s benign scholarly father, mute after experiencing a stroke; and the two little girls, vivacious and loving. Then there are the hostile, suspicious, the rude people that Juliette encounters as she tries to find employment.
This is the story of a woman in mid-life, burdened by extraordinary suffering and trauma, being urged to come alive again through a supportive family and an opportunity for healing. It is the kind of film the French do so well.
Palace Out December 26
Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.