Let’s look at a couple recent films about the subject of convicted murderers released from jail. Both come from foreign countries (Britain & France (unless you live in Britain & France, then in that case these would be domestic movies)), and both deal with trying to readjust to being back in the world.
First up we have I’ve Loved You So Long from director Philippe Claudel and starring Kristin Scott Thomas (who has lived in France since the late 80’s, so in the movie it’s explained to others that she used to live in England to justify her Britishy French accent). We start with Juliette (Kristin) waiting in an airport for her sister Léa (Elsa Zylberstein) to pick her up. We don’t know what’s up yet, but there’s obviously something going on. There’s a distance between the two sisters, and we’re not sure where Kristen is arriving from. Ya see, if this were an American movie, we would’ve started with cell doors opening, shuffling feet down a corridor and looks from ugly inmates as Kristin made her exit. As she walks through the big doors into daylight, a prison hack would say to her “Be good.” So that’s one cliche done away with.
Léa drives Juliette to her home, but their conversation still doesn’t tell us a lot (which is nice for a change). We aren’t inundated with tons of exposition, and we have to be patient. We meet Léa’s husband and her two adopted Vietnamese girls. Pay attention American movie makers, this is how you cast children. They aren’t precocious and talk like adults. They are regular kids. When one of them wants Juliette to come see her room, that reminded me of my nieces at that age. We also learn that Léa’s husband is not too hot to have Juliette around, cuz after all, she’s s convicted killer.
Juliette needs to reenter society, get a job, and learn how to be around people. She’s somewhat a mystery to Léa’s friends, because no one knew she had a sister. There are a lot of nosy questions to get to the bottom who Juliette is, and Kristin does an excellent job of being uncomfortable. It’s a slow burn to see her acclimate to this new world, and it’s refreshing to have a story unfold at a leisurely pace.
I’m not gonna tell ya the whole movie, cuz frankly it’s dinner time and I still gotta mention the next movie. I will tell ya to be patient with it and it’s a very nice character study. However, the ending bothered me a little because it was a little too Hollywood. Yes, it was satisfying, but maybe it shouldn’t have been.
Next up in our murderous double feature is Boy A. This stars Spiderman-to-be Andrew Garfield as a young man just out of prison. He’s being prepped by Peter Mullan on how he can reenter the world. As in I’ve Loved You So Long, we are dropped right into the story. We don’t know what the dealio is with young Spiderman or why he’s being given a new identity. As the story progresses we are treated to that old standby, the flashback. But we’re still not given the whole story. The flashbacks follow a linear path, just like the present storyline does. Jack (Garfield) gets back into a society he knows nothing about (he’s been in jail since he was a child). He has to learn how to function with a new job, make new friends, and even learn how to get his freak on with a secretary. The flashbacks show us the journey of the shy, bullied boy and how he ended up in the predicament he’s in. Boy A is from a novel by Jonathan Trigell, and is said to be inspired by the murder of James Bulger in 1993. I remember that story when it happened. It’s pretty awful.
What Boy A does (for me), is make me think is rehabilitation possible? And if it is, do people deserve it? I know how I would react if a crime was committed against me or my loved ones. I would want swift justice. But I’m reminded of a story someone told me about the infamous Michael Dukakis debate question, when asked what he would do if his wife were raped and murdered. Now this person told me Dukakis said “I would want to kill them. But the law should be better than that.” In reality, that’s not what Dukakis said, and many people felt it cost him the election (that wasn’t the only thing to cost him the election). This is one of those cases where “print the legend,” is better than what actually happened. The law should be better than people, because it’s supposed to protect us. But I would still want swift and violent justice on people that did me and mine wrong.
Boy A doesn’t take the easy way out like I Love You So Long kinda did, but they are good contrasts to each other. I was hoping the French movie was going to make me feel really awful by the end, but I was kind of glad it didn’t. By the end of the British film, I was hoping it would make me feel better, but I was kind of glad it didn’t.