One of the best things about watching a lot of movies for a living is that occasional joyous thrill of sitting in a darkened theater being overwhelmed by a film, and knowing immediately that, without a doubt, you've just seen something that will absolutely end up on your top ten of the year. When that film is written and directed by a first-time director, it's even better, because you know you've just been witness to the start of a film career that promises to be something special. French novelist-turned-director Phillipe Claudel's much-talked about freshman effort, I've Loved You So Long, which has its North American premiere last night here at Telluride following an award-winning showing at Berlin and a hugely successful run in France, is one of those films.
The film, which stars Kristin Scott Thomas, opens with the reunion of two sisters who haven't seen each other in 15 years. The opening credit sequence goes back and forth between Juliette (Thomas), sitting alone at a table in an airport, looking as lost and desolate as a war refugee, and younger sister Lea (Elsa Zylberstein), coming to pick Juliette up, nervously dropping her keys as she walks in. Without a single word of dialogue to enlighten us as to what's wrong with Juliette, we know this much: this is a woman who has suffered some horrific trauma; she is lost to herself, locked away, not there.