"Imprisoned angels/Set at liberty" Shakespeare's King John
Just as Julie Christie was awarded for her unforgettable role as Alzheimer-sufferer Fiona in Away from Her, Kristin Scott Thomas in I've Loved you So Long should have been awarded for her intense portrayal of Juliette, who is returning from 15 years in prison for murder. So good is Thomas's role that it is arguably superior to Christie's.
No matter the comparison. The depiction of a lonely, introspective former inmate returning to civilization through the generosity of her sister, Lea (Elsa Zylberstein, almost as good as Thomas), is not only unusual, it is dramatically satisfying.
"Why did Juliette murder?" is almost not the point, although it underlies each scene like a stone floor, because the relationships she develops, her slow travel to a loving world, is the most rewarding experience.
First-time director Phillipe Claudel has successfully paced the revelation of Juliette's secrets and character in the Greek drama style of distributed exposition, where the onion layers of her soul are peeled away to reveal a translucent spirit different from the lost inmate we first meet.
While her interaction with her loving, non-judgmental sister is the most revealing of both characters, her relationships with men help also to expose her defensiveness and her capability to love. Claudel does not allow one-dimensional characters?Lea's colleague, Michel (Laurent Greville), provides a sympathetic shoulder for Juliette while their mutual affection grows but remains imprisoned by her past.
Claudel has made sure imprisonment is the dominant motif, a state figuratively experienced by the major characters, who have all done time behind the bars of life.