I’m finding I Loved You So Long a puzzling film to write about. I liked it but I don’t have many specifics why. I was entirely engrossed and always interested, though without much emotional attachment.

It finds itself in the Oscar sphere due to the performance of Kristin Scott Thomas, a British actress who works frequently in French cinema, though she’d be recognizable to American audiences for roles in films like The English Patient and Gosford Park. She plays Juliette, a woman recently released from prison for killing her son. She settles with her sister, Lea, and her family in Lorraine. The film mostly deals with Juliette readjusting to life outside prison and her inner demons regarding her crime.

There’s not much of a conventional conflict/revolution plot. Juliette looks for work, a tough prospect when potential employers discover what she was in prison for, and bonds with her sister’s family. Juliette’s parents disowned her when she went to prison and this is the first opportunity for Lea and Juliette to really get to know each other. There are also several touching scenes where Juliette connects with Lea’s adopted children. A few subplots involving potential male suitors for Juliette are also interesting.

Scott Thomas’s performance is very withdrawn, something I often find interesting but in this case I found it more one note than anything. Save for one big emotional scene, her performance is blank and emotionless. I didn’t see as much in her performance as I have in other ones that manage to say so much despite showing so little. Best Actress is probably the only potential Oscar nomination for the film and it seems the prospect for that is diminishing, which is fine with me. It was nominated for Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes, but France went with Cannes winner The Class for its Oscar submission in that category.

I did have one major problem with the film. I knew from hearing about it in reviews that some secrets regarding Juliette’s crime are revealed throughout the film. Consequently I spent too much time trying to figure out where that plot was heading instead of just sitting back and taking it in. Without giving anything away, do not repeat my mistake if you should happen to see I’ve Loved You So Long. The film is much better when about Juliette readjusting to free life and any revelations do not have enough real impact to bother pondering them throughout the film.

A few more thoughts about the ending after the jump. Spoilers ahead!

The final revelation is that Juliette’s son was dying from some sort of cancer and she euthanized him. I found this to be a cop-out and illogical. Slowly revealing more information about the crime felt gimmicky, contrived, and unrealistic. Mitigating Juliette’s actions also isn’t really necessary- the film works just fine even when we think she may be a horrible killer and it’s cheap to say right at the end that it was okay since she had a reason. And also, I cannot believe that the situation is plausible, that no one else would know that her son was wasting away. Even if she managed to hide the illness from her family, an autopsy and police investigation into the boy’s death would certainly reveal it. All in all it was an ill-advised and poorly executed twist in a film that really doesn’t need it.