'L'enfant' quickly graps and keeps your interest. It has some purposely lingering moments that develop a tension in a European way that pauses to capture a face at a certain moment. (Which is not unlike Ingmar Bergman films in this sense.) Although what I like about 'L'enfant' is that it is disturbing, but unique. The unthinkable happens and the main protagonist doesn't have the moral capacity to absorb the significance of his actions. The movie is not unlike an urban 'Lord of the Flies' where the key players descend into a darkness that isn't apparent to them until society can descend upon them and bring their transgressions to the conscious level.
That transgression happens between two, young French lovers, Bruno (Je're'mie Renier) and Sonia (Deborah Francois). They have a baby, but their relationship is playful, like two children. The full scope of their responsibilities hasn't hit them yet, especially for the immature Bruno. He's unemployed and resorts to stealing, which he initiates with boys whose endearment isn't too far removed from Fagin in Dicken's 'Oliver'. He's playful, too, with the boys, like an older brother, but his focus is mainly on his selfish interest for instant gratification. In the beginning, Sonia carries their newborn son around and has trouble entering their apartment, which Bruno has sublet to pay some debts. He quickly loses his black market money, which he mainly gets from drug deals and stolen merchandise. His connection to his newborn son is flippant at best, and his naming him "Jimmy" seems like a careless afterthought. After the reality of healthcare and housing sets in, Bruno sells Jimmy to the black market without even thinking to consult his young wife. When the sale is complete, Sonia faints upon hearing the news. Taking her to the hospital, he has jeopardized their relationship and his prospects to remain foot loose and fancy free.
As awful as the plot seems, 'L'enfant' is startlingly original and consuming in its quest for us to understand the clueless protagonist, who can see life only on his terms. There's a chase scene done with a mop-ed that reinvents the chase to the best of my knowledge, and some effective scenes of the estranged couple showing the effect of his choices. Although not an easy movie to take in always, it remains a believable and disturbing portrait of immediate choices that parallel those made in the United States, but done with the distinction of French culture. The resolution is satisfying for me to assuage my occasional suspicions that I was sometimes merely watching an unfolding soap opera with miserable circumstances.
(The DVD extra has an enlightening interview between a French radio host and the directors Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne. It is a thoughtful and engaging discussion that leads me to believe the directors were not by any means trying to sensationalize a sensitive and sticky situation presented in the plot. It clocks in at a half hour and is worth a look. Philosophical and insightful, it sheds light on the creation of L'enfant like few extras do.)
The Dardenne brothers' latest film is another remarkable and powerful experiment in realism, that never lets up or backs off or lets you ease away your attention from the two troubled Belgian teenagers who have just become parents. What the film is really about, it seems to me, is the question of what that means. Sonia thinks it means they will "settle down" and Bruno will get a job and stop being a ringleader for younger boys engaged in petty theft. Bruno doesn't know what to think. It's just another … more
The writing and directing team of Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne once again have created a film that is harsh, difficult to watch, and tremendously honest and recalcitrant to opt out for happy endings. These two artists manage to address strange issues, play them as realistic as feasible and them allow the audience reaction to complete the tale. Bruno (Jérémie Renier) and Sonia (Déborah François) are two teenage drifters who have just given birth to a baby nine days … more
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A disturbing film about a young Belgian couple and their newborn child,L'Enfanttells a heartbreaking tale that is less about love than about the possibility of moral redemption. We quickly learn what kind of people Sonia and Bruno are. Sonia (Deborah Francois) is a sweet teenager who has just given birth to Bruno's (Jeremie Renier) child. Instead of visiting her and seeing their baby in the hospital, Bruno sublets her apartment to "friends" who slam the door in her face when she tries to return home. We do not know what Sonia does for a living, but we know she's diligent enough to maintain a small apartment and keep her pantry stocked with instant soup. Bruno, on the other hand, refuses to take a job. Instead, he leads a gang of thieves who're approximately half his age (and height). Still, Sonia loves him. And Bruno, who may be incapable of love, enjoys the carefree benefits of having a girlfriend who doesn't expect too much. All this changes when Bruno does the unthinkable--he sells their child. He calmly explains to her, "I thought we'd have another." Overnight, Sonia changes from a little girl to a bitter woman who no longer excuses Bruno's behavior. When he returns to her apartment claiming he loves her, she spits back, "You're lying. You can't help it." Not realizing the irony of his own actions, he then begs her for money. Renier and Francois are formidable actors who convey feelings with subtle nuances....