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L' Enfant (The Child) (2005) (Belgium/France)

PostPosted: Mon Nov 28, 2005 3:52 am
by hengcs

Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Cast: Jrmie Renier, Dborah Franois

The official website

At Cannes International Film Festival 2005, it won the Golden Palm .

Re: L' Enfant (The Child) (2005) (Belgium/France)

PostPosted: Sat Apr 01, 2006 8:45 am
by arsaib4
[Note: L'Enfant was originally seen at the 2005 Toronto film festival, and this review was posted late last year in the appropriate festival thre

* A 2006 U.S. release*

It was bound to happen sooner or later. The expectations for LEnfant ("The Child"), the latest film by the Belgian masters Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, were perhaps too high; but, after all, their previous three features -- La Promesse (1996), Rosetta (1999), The Son (2002) -- happen to be some of the best films to have come out in recent years, and their latest only inflamed its anticipation by winning the Palme d'Or at the 2005 Cannes film festival. For most filmmakers, a film like LEnfant would probably be considered an achievement, but it's a minor disappointment coming from the Dardennes.

The duo got the idea for the film while they were working on The Son. They watched a seemingly destitute young woman push a pram up a street a few times, while wondering what her current situation would be like and where is the childs father?! Unfortunately, their focus in the film shifts rather abruptly to the young man to whom the woman belongs to, and for long stretches shes virtually absent. Our protagonist named Bruno -- a child-like mendicant and the leader of a couple of petty thieves -- is played by Jrmie Renier, the young star of La Promesse. He's recently had a kid with his similarly puerile and homeless girlfriend Sonia (Dborah Franois). Always looking to make an extra buck, he decides to sell the kid on the black market, later telling Sonia that they could always have another. But circumstances ultimately cause him to face the realities in his life.

Undoubtedly, LEnfant is the most audience friendly film the Dardennes have made so far. And if this film helps raise their profile while bringing some attention to their previous work, then it should be considered successful. However, it doesnt compare well with their other films. The narrative itself isnt particularly compelling; and for the first time the filmmakers allow a pat resolution, one which wouldnt surprise many. Other than the late chase sequence, which is derivative of one from Rosetta, most others that lead up to it lack thrust and tension, abilities that have made the Dardennes masters of tone and structure. The point that they might be trying to channel through numerous instances where we simply watch Bruno wait for one thing or another is that his (non)actions dictate his thought process, not the other way around, but at the end of the day hes not as interesting a character, emotionally or psychologically, as one would like him to be.

But no matter what, it's not surprising to see that the Dardennes do care, and that comes across in their thoroughly realistic, humanistic portrayals -- even though, at times its difficult to comprehend the fact that someone like Sonia would be with Bruno. (It wouldve been much more interesting if the focus was on an earlier stage of their relationship or perhaps on Sonias life before she ended up on the streets.) Still, for what it is, LEnfant showcases hard life in modern Europe (once again the film was shot in the Dardennes grim industrial hometown of Seraing) without resorting to clichs, melodrama, or other trivial elements.

Grade: B-

*L'ENFANT has been a part of a number of festivals since its premiere at Cannes. It opened in the U.S. on March 24th with very good reviews. Hopefully, the film's distributor, Sony Classics, will give it a chance by allowing it to grow on its own.

Re: L' Enfant (The Child) (2005) (Belgium/France)

PostPosted: Sun Apr 02, 2006 1:11 am
by hengcs

Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Cast: Jrmie Renier, Dborah Franois

It garnered the Best Film in Cannes Film Festival 2005 .

Well, I watched four of their films in a fringe festival recently .... guess it? La Promesse, Rosetta, Le Fils, and L'Enfant ... it was kind of a retro on films by the directors ...

My thoughts ...

-- What I definitely like and have to establish as the first point ... hee hee ... the great performance by the two lead! ... how can one not feel the chemistry between the two? ... they really feel like a young couple ... who are so in love ... and yet became upset ... but still liking each other ... and finally ... * for you to watch the film *

I thought Jrmie Renier carried his role very well in La Promesse, and he was even better this time ... I can't recall if I have watched films by Dborah Franois, but she was good too ...

-- Although I have always prefered films without an ending ... I have to say that this film feels very "complete" ... and I actually like it ...

-- apart from the performance, it is rather "meticulous" about the admirable human spirit (about love, trust and bond)

(i) rather obvious
... the love and bond between the two leads is so well delivered
(whether before or after the incident)
... the love between mother and son
(NOTE: i am talking about the two mothers and the two sons)

(ii) less obvious (because the audience are possibly upset with the man)
... actually, there is also love between the father and the son ...
(when he tries to remove his jacket so tactfully without disturbing the baby)
(and when he places him so gently down on his jacket)
(or maybe when he repairs the pram ...)
(or maybe or could it be ... although unexplained ... maybe he really thinks the baby will have a better life with the foster parents rather than him?!)
* but i am NOT defending that it is right *

(iii) rather obvious
... trust between the man and the kid
(not once, but a few times)

(iv) less obvious
... trust between the man and the buying party
(not once, but twice)

etc etc etc

-- Regarding the plot ... i know of many who may find it too simplistic ... either because of its simplicity or resolution or completeness ... I must say that part of the blame should go to ALL the publicity, the synopsis and trailers ... they all have kind of given the essential surprises/uncertainty away ... in fact, if one were to go without knowing anything about the film, there could be numerous surprises ...

* possible major spoilers *

-- Actually, the first "surprise" (which is no more) has to be the fact that he really did sell the baby away ... audience who went to watch the film without knowing will still be upsettingly surprised ...

Fortunately, there are still other surprises/uncertainty for me ...

(1) When he first sold the baby by leaving him in a quiet room, I was like ... oh no ... how could he trust the other party, he would lose the baby and NOT get any money ...

(2) Also, when he tried to get the money back by returning the money and phone, I was like ... oh no ... he would lose NOT only the money and phone, but the baby as well ... oh no ... it is going to be a very very very sad film ...

(3) Near the end ... When he finally appeared at the station and asked to see the boy ... I was like ... oh no ... but at the same time, VERY GLAD and VERY PROUD of his decision ... wow ... what a man of his words ...

(4) Backtrack ... Also, when the kid was caught ... oh no ...

(5) In fact, when he followed the woman initially, I thought that might be the robbery, but nothing happened ...

* end of spoilers *

Well, I still think it would have been more unpredictable and suspenseful if one went without knowing anything ...

Frankly, I really like the film ...
highly recommended ...

-- one shld go watch for the performance and also, the admirable human spirit (about trust and love) ... see my justification above ... not only is it an art film, it is also commercial enough ...

- maybe i like it slightly less than La Promesse
(which i really like, maybe because it was the first film I watched that was made by the directors)

- i know many will hate me for saying this ... but I like it better than Rosetta
(which I like for two things, i.e., the acting and the "betrayal" (which was the main surprise))
(which I dont like for two things, i.e., the fishing scenes and the stomach ache scenes)

Re: L' Enfant (The Child) (2005) (Belgium/France)

PostPosted: Sun Apr 02, 2006 4:06 am
by arsaib4
"I must say that part of the blame should go to ALL the publicity, the synopsis and trailers ... they all have kind of given the essential surprises/uncertainty away."

I recently watched the American trailer and I have to say that you're right. While establishing the main predicament should not be considered a spoiler (that's what the film is about), going any further than that could be harmful. Many have mentioned a certain Bresson film in their reviews which can also lead the viewers to make a few prejudgements.

Re: L' Enfant (The Child) (2005) (Belgium/France)

PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2006 2:27 am
by arsaib4
The French DVD is being released on April 20th. It will feature English subtitles!

Re: L' Enfant (The Child) (2005) (Belgium/France)

PostPosted: Sun Apr 16, 2006 2:15 pm
by howardschumann(d)
L'ENFANT (The Child)

Directed by Jean and Luc Dardenne (2005)

Unlike some contemporary films that depict unethical behavior as "cool" and without consequence, the films of Jean and Luc Dardenne display a moral center and consequences for people's actions. Their latest effort, L'Enfant (The Child), winner of the Palme D'Or at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, is a fully realized, powerful work of art that brings back Jeremie Renier, ten years after his impressive debut in La Promesse. Set in an industrial city in eastern Belgium, L'Enfant is shot with the unmistakable Dardenne trademarks: a shaky hand-held camera, natural sounds with no background music, a concern for the underclass that globalization left behind, and a gritty and realistic look and feel.

Bruno (Ranier) and his girlfriend Sonia (Deborah Francois) live on the margins. He is a low-level thief, panhandler, and slacker who refuses to work and can only support his girlfriend by illegal means. It is clear that he loves Sonia but only in a playful, childlike way, not in a manner that recognizes adult responsibility. He lives for the moment rather than in the moment, pursuing instant gratification without thinking of how his actions may affect others. When she comes home from the hospital after giving birth to a baby boy she names Jimmy, she finds that Bruno has sublet her apartment in order to buy a jazzy windbreaker with stripes. With no apartment to go home to, the two are forced to huddle together on a cold embankment.

While Sonia waits in a long line for her unemployment check, Bruno, acting on a tip from a fence, impulsively decides on his own to sell Jimmy to a criminally connected adoption agency without thinking about how Sonia will react. When he tells her almost matter-of-factly what he did, she collapses and is rushed to the hospital. Bruno, showing remorse, tries to rescind the deal and retrieve Jimmy but is in over his head with a ruthless gang that demands he pay them a small fortune to compensate for their losses. Bruno begs Sonia to take him back and forgive him but she refuses. The more he tries to put his life in order, the deeper it sinks into chaos and, in a daring chase sequence, his reckless actions endanger the life of Steve (Jeremie Seard), his fourteen-year-old artful dodger.

The Dardennes do not tell us how to feel about Bruno and we are left to sort out our own reactions. A movie is not a court of justice," says Jean-Pierre Dardenne. "We try to make it so that the viewer feels many things about Bruno. When you see him selling the child, you think, 'No, this can't be, this is impossible.' But then the more you see him, the more you realize he's not just a bastard. You are forced to try to understand the character." Like the Dardenne's earlier films, the power of L'Enfant is cumulative. As Bruno evolves and we become more aware of his vulnerability, our capacity for forgiveness is challenged and the film prompts us to grow along with the character. In an ending that is unique and painfully touching, L'Enfant achieves a rare authenticity.


Re: L' Enfant (The Child) (2005) (Belgium/France)

PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 3:01 am
by Anasazie
Great review Howard, i wanted to write one in answer to Arsaib's unfavourable misunderstanding, but i saw the film almost a year ago and wouldn't have done it justice from memory. You've hit the nail on the head and i hope your words encourage others to check the film out. The Dardennes are delivering fresh, astute, thought provoking work and L'Enfant is just as important as Le Fils and Rosetta. Unfortunately i haven't seen La Promesse yet.

Thanks for taking the words out of my fingers.

Re: L' Enfant (The Child) (2005) (Belgium/France)

PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 4:00 am
by howardschumann(d)
Thanks for your kind comment. I think it is an excellent film and one that stays in the mind.

Re: L' Enfant (The Child) (2005) (Belgium/France)

PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 7:31 am
by wpqx
I just watched the film and although not very overwhelmed I'd say I far preferred it to La Promesse. Bruno is morally reprehensible. Everything he does is selfish, and I mean everything. Even turning himself in, he does in my opinion to escape the thugs who intend to collect the additional money he owes them, and to avoid a harsh winter and avoid the trouble of searching for food. I was slightly upset when Sonia cried with him, or even visited him for that matter, but oh well. A good film, no doubt, but at times almost too simplistic and detached for me.