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L' enfant

A movie directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne

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A Brave Film Masterfully Made

  • Aug 28, 2006
  • by
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 ago. They live off Sonia's welfare and Bruno's petty theft crime gang of young kids, namely Steve (Jérémie Segard) who steal for Bruno, Bruno sells the hot items, then pays the boys. Bruno is not a responsible boy, preferring not to get a job, but wanting to buy expensive clothes to look good. His response to Sonia is one of playful adoration (they are obviously very much in love) but he appears to have little attachment to their new son Jimmy. In an act of desperation Bruno sells Jimmy on the Black Market for considerable money. When he tells Sonia she is devastated and throws mim out. Bruno makes contact with the source to whom he sold Jimmy, gains the baby back, only to discover that other thugs are now involved and demand 5000 Euros from him because of their loss in the scam. Bruno convinces Steve to commit some thefts with him on motorbike and they are followed with disastrous effects for Steve. Bruno faces his atrocious behaviors and the manner in which he accepts responsibility and the consequences attached provide a very heartrending ending to this story.

The film is shot with an eye for realistic location and mood. It is almost impossible for the audience to accept the behavior of these teenagers and that seems to be one o the goals of the writers and directors. Life has a spectrum of events - happy, silly, absurd, disastrous, monstrous, tender, forgiving - and these are all incorporated into the form of an unlikely story that becomes so real it is painful to watch. The young actors are superb, completely credible, and very real in their portrayal of the various personality aspects of their characters. The film is played without a musical score (except for a moment of Johann Strauss on a car radio) and the cinematography by Alain Marcoen is intensely aligned with the story. L'ENFANT may not be a film many viewers will find 'entertaining', nor was it meant to be. This is a thoughtful and disturbing film and one of the highest quality. In French with English subtitles. Grady Harp, August 06

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More L' enfant reviews
review by . September 12, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
review by . December 14, 2006
'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 …
About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Ranked #96
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … 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....
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DVD Release Date: August 15, 2006
Runtime: 100 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
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