Opening 13 Nov 2008
Juliette (Kristin Scott Thomas) served fifteen years in prison. During that time she had no contact with her parents (who eventually died), nor with her much younger sister Léa. Upon her release she moves in with Léa whose husband Luc mistrusts the situation, although their two adopted daughters like having a new auntie. Fearful and overburdened, Léa tries to play the role of the caring adult, but inside she resents that her parents had denied all contact to this imprisoned sister. After 110 minutes, the sisters have become friends and Juliette’s crime is no longer a secret.
This is Frenchman Philippe Claudel’s first feature film. During the press conference at the 2008 Berlin film festival, where the film was in competition, he said that he was especially happy to work with a relatively unknown actress, Elsa Zylberstein, who played Léa. In order to look like a former prisoner, Scott Thomas wore no make-up throughout the film, nor did she act in a socially acceptable way. Claudel wanted to show that both sisters were walled in, in different ways. True to his profession as writer (his prize-winning book in France is Grey Souls) and literature professor, all the characters in his film read books, including the grandfather and the children. Although basically a good story, everyone seems to be trying too hard, are too artificial. This is one of those French films which I never quite understood. You Francophiles might love it – and if so, would you please explain it to me. (Becky Tan)