This movie is in French, with English subtitles.
Kristin Scott Thomas, Elsa Zylberstein
Juliette: In prison, I’d put books by my pillow. Their presence reassured me. A sort of rampart…against the world. A world without me. It got along fine without me…
Juliette (Thomas) has been in prison for 15 years, convicted of murder. When she is released, only her younger sister Lea (Zylberstein), whom she barely knows, is there for her. Lea invites Juliette to come live with her family until she can get settled back into a normal life.
The “Absent One”. That’s what we learn Juliette was called in prison by her fellow inmates due to her daily pacing around a courtyard, never saying a word. She essentially removed herself from the world due to her sadness and guilt over what she had done.
Naturally, integrating back into a world you’ve removed yourself from can be difficult. Juliette must learn to live with family she’s never met, keep a steady job while also relating to coworkers, and deal with romantic interests. Kristin Scott Thomas does a good job of subtly (for the most part) conveying Juliette’s feelings of discomfort and awkwardness. Only near the end does some over-acting creep its way into the movie.
Her story is interesting, but the movie plods along with a lot of seemingly extraneous scenes thrown in. I think some of the other story lines are meant to show other prisons that people must deal with: depression, senility, being mute, etc. The problem is, all of those sequences cause the main story about Juliette to lose steam.
The other big issue I had with the film is that the end is way too “feel good”. I won’t give away much about it, but it seems like something that would get tacked onto a Hollywood movie after test audiences didn’t like the original ending.
Despite its interesting set up and touching moments, the movie was just too dull and scattered overall. The performance from Thomas is worth checking out, but you might want to be ready to pause it half way through and take a nap.
It can be hard to land a job when people find out during the interview that you’re a murderer.
10 – 1.1 for being dull at times – 1.4 for too many scattered story lines – 1 for the pat ending = 6.5