I’ve been house sitting in Melbourne for the last week or so, and one of the perks of city dwelling is getting the chance to see films that have no chance of ever coming to my country town. Having read wonderful things about ‘I’ve Loved You So Long’, (Il y a longtemps que je t’aime), I was determined not to go home without checking it out. I saw it at one of those art house cinemas that I would LOVE to have in my hometown, in a theatre with only a handful of others in the middle of a sunny but chilly Melbourne afternoon.

I have always been a fan of Kristin Scott Thomas, and having heard her performance in the lead role of Juliette touted as her ‘career best’, I went in with pretty high hopes. Was I disappointed? Not for a second.

Basic synopsis: Juliette has just been reunited with her sister after being absent for 15 years – why she has been away is made fairly clear from the beginning, but the reasons behind her absence unfold in a series of gradually revealed conversations and events. From the outset, Scott Thomas paints a powerful picture of a woman in suffering, from the drawn face, to the hunched shoulders, to the coat drawn tightly around her in an attempt to maintain distance.

I don’t want to say any more about the plot for fear of spoiling things, but it’s an absolutely stunning film and for me it was made all the more powerful because, obviously, the dialogue was all in French. For some reason, this served to make every scene more poignant and there were a couple of scenes where tears were actually running down my face, something that’s pretty rare for me when watching a movie. Sure, I might well up every now and then, but actual crying just doesn’t happen. I credit this to the brilliant acting by Kristin Scott Thomas, along with the rest of the excellent cast, and the tragic tale that unfolds with each carefully constructed scene. There’s one part in particular where Juliette finally voices her anguish and there is such pain in her voice that thinking about it now is enough to make me get all teary again.

Please don’t be put off by the fact that it made me sooky though – it was good crying, tears that came from being so involved in the story that her pain became mine for a few brief minutes. That’s a sign of a pretty damn fine piece of acting.

I was also quite enraptured by the soundtrack, most of which I think was performed by French singer-songwriter Jean-Louis Aubert. Details are pretty sketchy, but I did manage to track down the main piece that captured me. This version is not from the soundtrack, rather it is an earlier one by Aubert, but it will do the job until I manage to find the film version. It’s gorgeous, and while I don’t really understand what he’s saying, the expression and the feel is enough.

Alter Ego – Jean-Louis Aubert