After learning he has a newborn son, a small-time thief attempts to go straight - but not until his amorality is pushed to its breaking point - in this social-problem drama from writer-directors Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne. Eighteen-year-old Sonia (Déborah Francois) has just given birth to a baby boy. The baby's father Bruno (Jérémie Renier) is panhandling in the street when Sonia tracks him down, and he shows little interest in fathering the child, or even providing a roof over the heads of the fledgling family. As the new and inexperienced mother navigates the bleak industrial landscape of the small Belgian town they live in, Bruno falls in with a clandestine group that buys and sells healthy children on the black market. He tragically learns that one avaricious decision, made in an instant, can affect the lives of everyone in his orbit. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi
My enthrallment with Dardenne brothers remains constant and unwavering. Dardennes have a signature: stories told in close-up, a montage of scenes in real time, no music or heart-stopping photography to distract--instead we get a post-apocalyptic bleakness of place and a character who moves through his days never knowing or caring what the day will bring. No forethought and very little language. In all of the Dardenne movies, the characters have little to say, they have no voices--they are marginal people and "off to the side." In La Promesse there was redemption and even more in The Son. Here, in the last moments of the film Bruno seems to make a shift. He seems to understand that he has really made a mess of things and that is all we are left with. He seems to understand something important. Maybe that he is lost.
I am growing less convinced of the vaunted talent of filmmaking team the Dardenne brothers, particularly after seeing L'ENFANT. As in "The Promise, " Rosetta," & "The Son", the two show us the working-to-lower classes, done in a kind of Bresson-lite mode: intense close-ups of characters in situations that demand immediate attention. Terrible things happen but redemption rears its lovely head, at least enough to dangle the possibility in front of us--and the characters. But what of the dialog? It is flat in the extreme. None of these people seem to have acquaintance with particularity. Everything seems written as if by robots (the actors do an amazing job, considering). All the Dardennes' movies grip me to an extent, due to their subject matter, but I am beginning to find a whiff of laziness in the consistently generic dialog that rarely helps us understand character--something dialog usually does. Not by chance, I think, are so many of the people in the Dardennes' films such ciphers.
I have to agree with James V this one time. I'm not familiar with Dardenne's brothers' other films, but this movie was lacking. The filming is just as described by the other reviews, extreme close ups, no music etc which I found non-engaging. But what really strikes is the lack of just not good dialogue, but depth from the Bruno character. You can never tell what Bruno is going to do because he's got one face for the whole movie until he breaks down in a less than satisfying ending. It's like they intentionally set out to downplay his atrocious behavior, selling his own child, just so they can go with a half-ass message of redemption at the end. Well, it doesn't satisfy me. I was very disappointed with the film.