Juliette Fontaine (Kristin Scott Thomas, Golden Globe Nominee for I've Loved You So Long, Oscar nominee for The English Patient) is a frail, haunted woman, an ex-doctor who's a shell of her former self. Having served 15 years in prison for an unspeakable crime, she's back on the "outside." With nowhere else to go, she comes to live with her loving but estranged sister Lea (Elsa Zylberstein). Together the sisters embark on a painful but redemptive journey back from life's darkest edge in this gripping drama of struggle and salvation.
Kristin Scott Thomas is brilliant as Juliette, freed from prison after serving 15 years. Enigmatic, reserved, yet ready to re-enter life cautiously, Juliette moves in with her younger sister, Lea (Elsa Zylberstein), a literature professor, and the latter's husband Luc (Serge Hazanavicius), who worries about allowing Juliette into a home with two young children (related to the reason she was convicted in the first place). Also in the house is Juliette and Lea's father (Jean-Claude Arnaud), mute from illness. Writer-director Philippe Claudel slowly reveals details about the nature of Juliette's crime as she takes a job in a hospital records department and is wooed by a colleague. Other forces in Juliette's life--people asking questions, a visit to her dementia-suffering mother, tensions between her and Lea--slowly tease out the mystery behind her actions and takes viewers to a conclusion that adds an element of surprise but ties things up too tidily. Claudel cultivates an aura of naturalism and no-frills storytelling that allows dramatic developments and revelations to unfold easily. The film borders a bit on soap opera, but the grace and intelligence of Thomas' performance, offset by Zylberstein's more emotional work, is never less than compelling. --Tom Keogh