| Two estranged sisters bond after opening up to one another and recapturing their familial love.
Older sister Juliette Fontaine (British actress extraordinaire Kristin Scott Thomas from “The English Patient”), a former doctor, has spent 15 years in prison. We are introduced to her at the outset waiting to be picked up at the airport. This middle-aged woman seems traumatized, with sorrowful eyes and a worried, contemplative state of mind.
Her younger sister, Lea (Elsa Zylberstein), has invited Juliette to come and stay with her as she begins the acclimation process back into society after being locked up behind bars.
Lea, a university professor, is married to Luc. She has a busy life raising two adopted Vietnamese daughters and looking after Luc’s grizzled dad, who is unable to speak after a stroke. Juliette tells her niece that they have never met because “I was away on a long trip.”
Detailed bits and pieces of her past are slowly revealed over the course of the movie. The movie is slowly paced to mirror real life.
Throwing a blanket over the whole story is the nagging question of why she committed a crime in the first place. You will be shocked when you first learn the identity of her victim. Her rediscovery of life and freedom resembles a flower opening up in slow motion.
The movie puts you in a thought-provoking state. It is like a fine wine that you must give time to breathe.
We observe the difficult adjustment process of returning to civilization.
Thomas won Best Actress at the European Film Awards and has been nominated by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for giving this stunning standout performance.
Her character arc is breathtaking and awe-inspiring. She listens to her inner voice, which counsels her as to the right time to emerge from a protective shell. The light returns to her eyes as if awakening from a long slumber.
Lesser-known Zylberstein holds her own opposite Thomas in some memorable scenes that stir things up.
The movie builds to a powerful and poignant emotional climax. This very literary account resembles a page-turning novel that you can’t put down. It is no coincidence that first-time director and screenwriter Philippe Claudel is a professor of literature at the University of Lyon and a novelist.
The title comes from a line in a popular French children’s song. The two sisters learned it as a piano duet.
The well-drawn, intriguing characters and vividly realistic situations make for an interesting story that holds your attention. The conversations are natural and succinct.
This distinctive example of art house fare offers sublime originality not often experienced in big budget mainstream offerings. The dialogue is in French with English subtitles.
Now playing exclusively at AMC Studio 30 and the Tivoli in Westport.
Keith Cohen, "The Movie Guy"