I don't think that most couples are as dysfunctional and troubled as the one presented in "L'Enfant". This French romantic drama is a spectacular show-case of acting and directorial talents, solid story-telling, and quiet but honest comedy. The dysfunction in the relationship of these two characters is the fact that the male goes out and sells the couple's baby for some money. Bet you haven't had that happen to you. Most of us haven't. But some of the best films don't ask us to relate with our lives; but rather our emotions. In that case, "L'Enfant" is one of the most strangely relatable movies ever made. And yes; that's definitely a compliment. Whilst watching the movie, my impression of the quality of the product continued to change. On moment I would love it, and one moment I would like it. I eventually couldn't take it anymore, and didn't take my pick out of the two. As you can see, I molded them together. I really, really liked "L'Enfant". It's a smartly written, artistically crafted film that puts honest emotions ahead of petty melodrama. It's a film worth seeing; as long as you can see that it's not quite a comedy, but rather a full-on drama. The premise suggests that it may indeed be a comedy. It can be funny. But in the end of the day, it is not a comedy at all. It's a touching film that touches human connection with honesty, caution, and the will to explore. I found it to be very interesting overall. It's a near-perfect film in its often fascinating examination of relationships and their issues. This relationship has an almost overly complicated issue; but it's nothing that the love cycle can't overcome. This is a romantic drama that is not about the love; but about the feelings of betrayal, hurt, sadness, and the overwhelming desire to please. These are the parts I loved about "L'Enfant". What I didn't love about it...well, I'll never know about that. But what I do know is that this is a pretty great film; nigh original and quite frankly, nigh brilliant. It's worth your while; put aside those pathetic twenty-something romantic dramas and choose this quiet, artsy, and well-directed French flick. I liked it; and so will anyone who has a basic understanding of the ups and downs of a relationship.
The couple of the film is Bruno and Sonia. We first see Sonia while she is holding her new-born child; and we first see Bruno in the middle of the road, presumably trying to collect the money that he just does not have. Sonia is a safe woman, while Bruno is not. They are none the less happy together, and we get to see the better days of their relationship early on in the film. They have fun in spite of their lack of money, and Sonia is dedicated to taking care of the child. I don't know about Bruno, though; he seems less than interested. He cares so little for the child's existence in his family that he does a very stupid thing; he sells his new-born son for a big wad of cash. True, it pays well to sell your baby to a sleazy, cheap, lying son of a gun; but it begins to hurt when you can't feel the pain that your partner experiences. Sonia leaves Bruno, and he tries to win her back by returning the young child. Of course, he is successful in returning the baby; but it matters not. He made a bad choice, and Sonia is not about to forgive him for it. Thus; the relationship collapses, possibly for good. Perhaps you have read the short plot synopsis of this film. I think it is inaccurate; this film is not all about Bruno trying to retrieve his child. That happens quickly, briefly, but in a moment of great importance. What matters so much about the story (AKA, the part that most would not tell you because they think it might "spoil a lot") is Bruno's emotional transformation. By the end, we see the change that he has been aiming for ever since the young kid was born. Perhaps he can be a good father. If you see the film, then maybe you can make your own little guess. It's as fun to guess where the story will go from there as it is to watch it unfold. Few films make me feel this way; and this one happens to be cleverly written. It's a slightly underrated little French bastard of a movie that deserves to be seen whether you find it dull of not. It will ring hollow for some; but there is fascination to be found here, and plenty of it. What's not to like?
It is impossible not to admire this movie couple. They're so endearing whether they're together, or as they usually are, on their own. Jeremie Renier is irresistible in the role of Bruno. He is a talented actor with an ambitious and inspired role; a man who has not quite matured enough to be the father that his wife wants him to be. Speaking of which, Sonia is played by the depressingly delightful Deborah Francois, who plays a convincingly pissed off woman as well as she plays a convincingly content one. The woman has two personalities; the man has two. It's quite fascinating, actually. These two stars deserve more acclaim than they have already garnered. I'm sure that they've been recognized as it is, but surely we Americans can show more love. I mean, really. How did either actor NOT get nominated for the Oscar?
I've always been a strong believer that you must be visually involved in a film to be involved at all. That's damn right; and I will ALWAYS believe that. "L'Enfant" is the kind of visual pastry that tastes overwhelmingly good to eat. The film captured me visually from the moment I turned it on; mostly because of the contrast between the solid cinematography and the perfect scenery. The film nearly feels bleak, but then again it is not. It is given an artistic feel through its cinematography; something that most dramas don't have. It's a taut film; and feels almost like a thriller, sometimes. It blends genres so well that it could indeed be called a masterpiece by most. As I said, it might not work for some. But it has a lot going on stylistically and on a narrative level. I admire it; I enjoy it; and I kind of loved it. The thing is charming and often times darkly humorous. Despite what you may think, a story which involves a guy selling his baby for money is automatically funny- but as I said-, in a dark sort of way. This is a film of considerable craft, and it works emotionally without being a tear-jerker. I like that. I don't even like melodrama at the best of times, and it's good that a film like this does not inspire sappy sympathy. It's a quiet character study, devoid of music but plentiful when it comes to cheery, complex craftiness. I am officially interested in whatever directors Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne have in store for the future, the past, and the present. I'm sure everything they've made is at least moderately interesting. Judging on this film, I would surely think so.
"L'Enfant" is really something else. It's a drama, a dark comedy, and somewhat of a romantic thriller all rolled up into a pretty darn satisfactory ball of epic fun. Yes, I just said fun. That's a good word to define this experience. It's not the kind of fun that most would expect when they hear the word, but it's the kind of crafty, well-made production that I find entertaining and interesting. The film says something about love and how easily your inconsistency can interfere with it. Few films make such a true and solid statement, but "L'Enfant" is not an ordinary romantic drama. It's smart, intelligent, and well worth watching as long as you can warm up to it as fast as I did. It's not quite for everyone- not quite. I don't know why, but something tells me that not everyone is going to praise it as highly as I did. But I give a film credit when credit is due. This film deserves a lot of credit; all of it good. I cannot recommend the thing more. It's the kind of movie that I was in the mood for; an artistic and thoroughly intriguing one. Some of the best films connect with the audience without truly relating to an event in their lives. If you look at "L'Enfant" one way; I couldn't relate to the thing for shit. But if you look at it another way, you'll see just how much of Bruno we have in all of us. We're all children waiting to grow up through some sort of awakening. Bruno's was particularly challenging. Let's hope ours is less so.
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About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall (ryguy4738)
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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