"It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen."

Friday, December 23, 2011

I've Loved You So Long

SPOILER ALERT. I can't discuss this film without completely giving away the ending.

It's about a woman who has just been released from a 15-year prison term. Her sister takes her in until she can get a job and a place of her own. We find out that her crime was killing her 6-year-old son. Her husband testified against her, and their divorce was finalized while she was in jail.

"How could such an atrocious thing come into my head? What filthy things my heart is capable of."

I really connected with the killer, Juliette. She's quiet. People at her work complain about her aloofness. She's not a team player. The triangle between her, her sister and brother-in-law was reminiscent of the family circumstances in Lars and the Real Girl but with reversed genders. I also identified with Lars, socially awkward to an extreme. Awkward and quiet, sometimes possibly to the point of creepiness, they are both well-loved by many with little effort on their own part.

But the movie didn't take the path I was most curious to see. I had high hopes at the beginning. Kristin Scott Thomas plays Juliette wonderfully. I love how expressive her face is, telling us so much with the slightest movement. She looks hideous and beautiful and everything in between. She looks real. And in the beginning, it seems that she's got a dark soul that demands our exploration and understanding. At one point a new friend, who once taught in a prison, explains that people in prisons are no different than us, could be us. I nearly squeaked with anticipation I was so intrigued by this honest peek at the killer within, our heart of darkness. I was looking forward to the film shining a light on the dark corners of our soul. That's the path I wanted to travel.

But, here's the big spoiler, she only killed her son because he had a painful, terminal illness. It was a mercy killing, an act of love not cruelty or rage. Then Juliette is redeemed in everyone's eyes, and they all live happily ever after.

I wanted her to be redeemed as a heartless killer, as a person who took her evil impulses to the brink and worked her way back to civility. They discuss Crime and Punishment in the film, but don't get there themselves. When we thought Juliette was possessed with guilt, wrestling with her recollection of the killing, she was really just grieving her son's death. We wonder if she'll become remorseful, then realize she has no need for forgiveness. That wasn't a repugnant mental torture barely concealed we were privy to, but simple, acceptable sadness. Instead of the climax finding a means towards a gradual renewal of a woman after reaching the darkest point in her soul, it's a mere discovery of facts previously unmentioned. What a cop-out!

Okay, it's not a bad story. It's just a different story than I was hoping for. It looks at loyalty and love and loss, but just misses getting to a more profound depth of human understanding in its totality including revealing our hidden desires to harm.

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