This is an extraordinary film of love and reckoning. It begins with the face of a woman seemingly devoid of emotion. She is seated in an airport and is soon met by a younger woman. From there, this film peels off layer and layer until a heartbreaking, yet uplifting, conclusion is realized.
Juliette Fontaine has been in prison for fifteen years. The younger woman who meets her at the airport is her sister, Léa who takes Juliette to stay with her family. Léa and Luc are successful professionals who share their home with two adopted daughters from Viet Nam and Luc’s father who has suffered a stroke. Juliette enters this home but is seen a pretty much an outsider - even by her sister.
As the story continues, the viewer finds that, because of her crime, Juliette was rejected by her family, and Léa - who was a teenager at the time - was pretty much forced by her parents to also reject her sister. There has been no contact except for the past few months, and Juliette has begrudgingly accepted Léa’s invitation to stay with her family basically out of necessity.
As Juliette goes about registering with the local police and looking for a job, the director and writer of this film unravels her story until all is disclosed. Along the way, the viewer is treated with numerous, captivating characters portrayed by consummate actors.
Kristin Scott Thomas and Elsa Zylberstein are wonderful as Juliette and Léa. All of their scenes together are magic. Thomas is in almost every scene of the film and her interplay with all of the other actors is a treat.
I am often disappointed by French films because they draw me in with extremely interesting characters and situations and then disappoint by just ending with no reasonable conclusion. Il y a longtemps que je t'aime, however, carries through with a believable and heartfelt conclusion to reward by giving a magnificent overall experience. It is a super movie.