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THE CHILD

Director: JEAN-PIERRE & LUC DARDENNE

BELGIUM-FRANCE • 2005 • SUBTITLED. COLOUR • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 95 MIN.


THE SECOND CANNES PRIZE-WINNER FROM JEAN-PIERRE AND LUC DARDENNE OFFERS FURTHER EVIDENCE, AS IF ANY WERE NEEDED AFTER THEIR TRIUMPHS ROSETTA AND LE FILS (THE SON), OF THE BELGIAN SIBLINGS’ EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY TO INVEST THEIR STORIES ABOUT THE MARGINS OF SOCIETY WITH BOTH HEART-STOPPING DRAMATIC INTENSITY AND HAUNTING SPIRITUAL RESONANCE.
Here we follow teenage mother Sonia (Deborah François) as she presents her new baby to the father, youthful tearaway Bruno (Jeremie Renier), who scrapes a living by passing on stolen goods. It’s no environment for an infant to grow up in, as Bruno soon realises, and with a keener instinct for self-preservation than parental responsibility, makes a deal to sell the child without telling Sonia. At this point, the audience’s horrified disapproval notwithstanding, the Dardennes’ boundless compassion for their characters extends even here, and as the full implications of his actions sink in, Bruno tries in his own way to make amends. Little does he know that his nightmare is only just
starting. Keeping the camera in hand and eschewing any musical score, the Dardennes’ austere aesthetic could almost seem casual were it not for the focused concentration of their storytelling. A brilliantly acted, compelling yet unsentimental portrait of the unlikely resilience of human goodness in the least hospitable surroundings, the film also highlights a ruthlessly avaricious social economy in which the profit motive reigns supreme. Moving seamlessly from nail-biting car chase to a sublime moment of celluloid grace worthy of Robert Bresson, this is, quite simply, greatness at work.—Trevor Johnston.

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