Lately I’ve been trying to catch up on some of the films that made it onto my friends’ top ten lists for 2008 that I had missed, and so last night I finally got around to seeing I’ve Loved You So Long. For those who haven’t seen it consider this a recommendation, while I’ve got a few minor issues with it I’m still a fan and think that Philippe Claudel’s direction worked wonders for his writing which I found decent but not exactly brilliant.
I guess the thing I wanted to bring up here is the ending. I think that Claudel really missed an opportunity to say something universal and enduring about sympathy and judgment and instead used his conclusion to justify our response to Juliette’s hardships following her release from prison. I found myself conflicted throughout, wondering exactly why I was feeling sympathy for a child murderer, and I believe that this was the most fascinating element of the film up until the end. That said, it could have been much worse (she didn’t kill him, The ______ did!) but I think I would’ve preferred if he hadn’t tidied up the central conflict so much during the resolution.
This is an interesting question and something I hadn’t really considered. When I saw the film in the theater last fall, I really liked it and recommended it to a lot of people. Kristen Scott Thomas’ performance was amazing (along with Melissa Leo, the best of the year) and I think that what I really liked about the film, beyond her performance, was that it didn’t feel like a “French” film. I think the reason for that is because of the ending and if it ended the way you describe, it would have felt more European and less Hollywood.
I don’t take a position one way or the other on this. The ending doesn’t make or break it for me and I think that it does serve some purpose to have the death explained. I think that by explaining the death, it deepens her character and makes you want to rewatch the film with that knowledge in mind. But like I said, if it hadn’t had ended the way it did, I would have been fine with it. And dare I say, the ending is not altogether neat and tidy as there isn’t some big resolution where now this woman is cured of all her demons and she will live a happy and fulfilling life (that would have been the Hollywood version). Anyways, good film, shamefully overlooked.
I’ll agree that it isn’t so neat and tidy as to fix every problem Juliette has, but it explains her sympathetic characterization to us and so we aren’t forced to confront the idea that maybe likable people can commit atrocities. I don’t want to misrepresent my position as negative on the movie as a whole, I really did enjoy it quite a bit, just thought that the ending nullified some of the depth Claudel’d gone to such lengths to establish.
I agree with you that the end attempts to justify her actions and in effect makes her more sympathetic. However my guess is that there are a lot of people that still find her to be a horrible person and her actions atrocious as there are plenty of people who are against euthenasia. Therefore depending on the viewer, the director has achieved what you are saying, “forced to confront the idea that maybe likable people can commit atrocities.” This may not apply to you or I and therefore our interpretation is different from someone else. But that interpretation can still be found. In that way, now that I’m thinking about it, the ending is much more interesting because it can be interpreted multiple ways. You know what I mean? If it had ended not explaining the death (you notice I say death and not murder – that should give you an idea of my position on the matter) than everyone would be forced to interpret the film one way; that is, likeable people can commit atrocities. But with the ending how it is, the viewer is forced to bring their own values and judgements to the table to come to their own interpretation.
Wow. All that just came to me just now. I’d be interested to hear what others have to say and please call me out if I’m talking out my ass.
I think with a less concrete conclusion it could’ve been a lot more ambiguous, namely that we could’ve had the argument about whether there was something behind the death or not, etc, but that the way it ends is much more solid. I think that although it may have the ambiguity of whether or not euthanasia is justified, I still think it removes the possibility that likable people can commit real atrocities, not arguable ones.
And I’m not just saying that they shouldn’t have revealed the cause, but what if the cause had been different. What if it had been a mistaken analysis, or if she just plain snapped one day. I think it’d be a little more interesting and challenging rather than what it is; a really good film that doesn’t really challenge us to think differently. It accommodates everyone’s viewpoint, rather than making us question our own perspectives.
That’s a good point. I’ll go with that. :)
Shoot. I loved this film, but I can’t really remember the ending. (I’ll read through the thread and see if it jars my memory.)
I liked this film but thought the ending was a bit ridiculous – sure, it was a big revelation to the audience, but looking back at the rest of the film could we really buy that she’d successfully hidden the child’s illness from everyone? I put this film and Tell No One in the bracket of very decent films that were marred by very silly endings.
I disliked the ending as well. Suddenly she wasn’t a woman in a troubled societal position, just a bit of a martyr. I kept thinking they were going to go the post-partum depression route, which also would’ve been more interesting, but I believe the kid was a bit too old for that.
I’m a bit iffy about the ending myself. But let me say a couple of things about what it seems the film is going for. If it’s going for objective sympathy (awareness of the feelings of another, but not absorption in the feelings themselves), then, yeah, sure, I guess you could say you might as well push it as far as you can go and make it something that no one would think of as something that might be a “good reason.” However, if you’re trying to create a specific subjective identification with Léa, then you have to do it the way the film does it, where you go all the way from the sister being unknown and unsympathetic to her being known and sympathetic. Otherwise the tension between Léa and husband about the daughters getting close to a woman who killed her own child doesn’t get resolved.
I didn’t like this film at all, the ending/expose was absurd and reduced all that went before it in my view. They tried to whip up a bit of energy into it by a screaming match and heightened emotion between the sisters but for me it was flat as a pancake. She doesn’t get 15 years for euthanasia as someone argued at the time, she gets 15 years for first degree murder – she never reveals why she did it or that it was a mercy killing.
The scenario presented as I understand it (I am happy to be enlightened otherwise if I’ve gotten it wrong) is that Juliette – a married woman and doctor with a family (mother father teenage sister etc) friends colleagues – in short, a life with many human observers – has a son diagnosed with a terminal illness. It is not something quiet and unobtrusive either, but something that has him writhing in pain over time until she can endure it no longer, also she and the child have been in some sort of dialogue about death etc and so on, yet she is able to keep all this concealed. She doesn’t turn to her family for support, emotional or material – as she screams to Lea “what would you have done?” That whole heightened scene was really phoney and only there as an attempt to add some sort of gravitas to the grand finale.
Juliette also goes through a murder trial and it still doesn’t come out. She embraces the 15 year sentence, she wants it to be as long as possible (I wanted to be in prison) during which time she still keeps mum, is divorced after the event, her family shuns her, no one is allowed to speak her name. And all this stays uncovered until lo! Lea finds an old photo and pathology report carelessly brushed to the floor by the swish of a coat.
All Juliette’s gazing hooded bleakness and bitterness at others which is the driving force of the character is largely the result of not the unfairness of life, not the horror of killing her child, not the awful diagnosis etc, it is the result of the path she chose to take in shutting everyone out. OK that’s fine, that was her choice, but don’t try to extract pathos from an audience for two hours over it and don’t serve up a totally unconvincing line that she could have even gotten away with the concealment in the first place.
In retrospect, after the revelation, one can clearly see how everything is carefully controlled throughout the film for the film’s own sake, and the sake of creating the environment for her revelation to which we are apparently supposed to respond to with something like “Oh poor Juliette, how terrible for her to have suffered all that in silence…..”
Much has been made of KST’s performance and yes she is very good indeed – but so much quality effort being put into something underpinned by such a folly really only deepened my disdain for it.
Meg comes in with a long post against the ending—with Matt, Savannah and Dazz chipping in—and I can’t remember enough details to comment! Argh.
OK that’s fine, that was her choice, but don’t try to extract pathos from an audience for two hours over it and don’t serve up a totally unconvincing line that she could have even gotten away with the concealment in the first place.
So you’re basically saying that there is no way Juliette wouldn’t have told anyone about her son’s condition; that there’s no way her famil and close associate could NOT have know about her son’s condition. Man, as I said, I can’t remember enough to comment on this, but it does seem like a legitimate criticism—if there isn’t any plausible way people would know her son’s condition.
Let me offer something (and I’m just grasping in the dark here). Since she’s a doctor, could she have been the first one to get the results of her son’s condition? And if that is so, could she have concealed this from everyone else because—in the back of her mind—she wanted to be able to take her son’s life and end his pain. At the same time, she might not have wanted to bring anyone else in on this (Does she have a husband? I can’t remember.) as it would complicate the decision—maybe her friends and family members would convince her not to; maybe they would be accomplices, etc.
Now, this doesn’t address the likelihood that others close to her would obviously see the son suffering—hence, they would clearly know that something was terribly wrong with him. Again, I can’t remember enough fo the film. I don’t think her sister was living with her, right? Juliette had a husband and older daughter—at the time she killed her son?
" I can’t remember enough fo the film. I don’t think her sister was living with her, right?"
Right, no, she doesn’t, and she’s supposed to be quite a bit younger, and it’s also implied that there was already some significant emotional distance (for reasons not explained) between Juliette and her parents prior to this all happening, so I think it’s somewhat feasible that her family would not know.
Or am I just remembering this all wrong?
Does Juliette have husband and another child? I believe that they’re not present in the film, are they? If so, what happened to them? If Juliette’s sister, brother-in-law and niece/nephew(?) are the only ones in the film who would have know about the son—and they never really lived together when Juliette son dies—then their not knowing isn’t so far-fetched.
I don’t recall any mention of a husband/another child.