In Jean Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s very best films, you know exactly what you’re getting — until the quiet dramatic pivot that gently ensures you don’t. In “The Unknown Girl,” only the first half of that assessment is true, though what we get is largely exemplary: a simple but urgent objective threaded with needling observations of social imbalance, a camera that gazes with steady intent into story-bearing faces, and an especially riveting example of one in their gifted, toughly tranquil leading lady Adèle Haenel. What’s missing, however, from this stoically humane procedural tale of a guilt-racked GP investigating a nameless passer-by’s passing, is any great sense of narrative or emotional surprise: It’s a film that skilfully makes us feel precisely what we expect to feel from moment to moment, up to and including the long-forestalled waterworks. Though it will receive the broad distribution practically guaranteed the Belgian brothers’ work these days, the film is unlikely to prove one of their sensations — more the healthy arthouse equivalent of a biennial checkup. Continue reading
Sandra, a young Belgian mother, discovers that her workmates have opted for a significant pay bonus, in exchange for her dismissal. She has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job.
‘La Promesse’ is the story of 15 year old Igor, who helps his small time crook father run a scam illegally employing immigrants on building sites. But when one of the workers is fatally injured, Igor promises to look after the man’s wife and child – a promise that changes Igor’s life forever. (ArtificialEye)
“The Promise” is the extraordinary story of a boy’s ascendance to grace. Under the conscienceless guidance of his father (Olivier Gourmet as Roger), fifteen-year old Igor appears destined to a life of petty crime. All changes, however, when Igor delivers an uncompromising promise to Hamidou – an immigrant who while working illegally for Roger accidentally falls to his death. As Roger scrambles to cover-up the accident, Igor suddenly finds himself torn between his loyalty to Roger and the agreement he made with Hamidou. Suspicious of Roger’s motivation and intimately drawn to the heart of his promise, Igor must choose between his love for his father and the demands of his awakening conscience. (New Yorker Video) Continue reading
Just before twilight, a four-engine plane lands on the runway of a country airport. The plane comes to a halt. A single passenger disembarks: Joe, the last survivor of a Jewish family, the Falsches. He has an appointment with them all tonight, forty years after leaving Berlin for New York in 1938. They are all waiting for him in the arrival lounge of the airport. A night of encounters, of celebrations beyond life and death; a meeting which will soon turn into a family psychodrama.Thirteen people will confront each other about their links to Germany, their life in exile, the presence of Lilli among the Falsches; the cries of anguish in the face of death in the camps, incomprehensible to those who went into exile, the Berlin of today, where nobody remembers the Falsches – not even Joe, who would prefer to forget, and never see them again. Continue reading
John, a television director, is preparing a show on speed. A phone call from his girlfriend Sophie makes him leave the studio in a hurry. Ηe drives fast and quarrels with another driver. John is upset; he insults the other man and drives off. In the meantime, the producer of the show changes John’s editing. John’s assistant calls him at home but John tells him that they should talk later. John hears the sound of another car and looks out the window.We hear the sound of an accident. John shouts and runs out onto the road. Sophie has hit a pedestrian. She was on her way to tell John that they are expecting a child
Belgium, 1980. On the banks of the Meuse River, against the enormous background of a steel-producing city, factories close one after another and lay off workers. One of those made redundant is Fabrice who, at thirty-five, is proud of his trade, rendered mythical by fire and steel, but feels he has become useless. His wife, Celine, tries to renew his interest in life. Despite a few moments of rediscovered happiness, Fabrice remains trapped in his confusion and one day disappears… Celine, her intense love leading the way, goes looking for him and eventually finds him. Once again, she tries to save him from himself. Can love resuscitate a languishing man? That is Celine’s wager. Continue reading
Olivier is a good teacher of carpentry, but a touch gruff; even so, when he refuses to accept young Francis into his workshop, that doesn’t explain why he takes to following the boy, as if he were spying on him. Might it have something to do with his own dead son, as his estranged wife insists?
One strength of the Dardennes’ follow-up to Rosetta, winner of the Cannes Palme d’Or, is that, once again, they ask us to discover certain crucial facts for ourselves: by the time we’re faced with questions of ethical and spiritual import, we’ve done enough groundwork to assess the evidence properly. Wisely, the camera stays close to Olivier, with the result that, notwithstanding his subtle understatement and a relatively taciturn script, we’re privy to his every fleeting thought and nagging emotion. Never manipulative or sensationalist, the film is none the less deeply moving. – Time Out Continue reading