Juliette (Kristin Scott Thomas) is released from prison after 15 years and goes to live with her sister Lea (Zylberstein). There, Juliette tries to cope with the burden of her incarceration and the gravity of her crime.
Guilt, grief and alienation are rarely the most promising ingredients for uplifting cinema, but in the hands of debut director Philippe Claudel they prove to be touchstones for something truly affecting. Kristin Scott Thomas shows off her fluent French as fortysomething Juliette, who is taken in by her earnest but caring younger sister (the excellent Elsa Zylberstein) after completing a long prison sentence.
The sallow-skinned, chain-smoking Scott Thomas delivers the performance of her career, slowly inhabiting her character with vitality and warmth as she shrugs off the judgments of others and the grim shackles of her past. Only a discordant, stagey final scene detracts from an otherwise pitch-perfect piece of filmmaking.
Compelling and deeply authentic film-making with a stellar performance from Scott Thomas.