A joinery instructor at a rehab center refuses to take a new teen as his apprentice, but then begins to follow the boy through the hallways and streets.
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Olivier
Morgan Marinne ...
Francis
Isabella Soupart ...
Magali
Nassim Hassaïni ...
Omar
Kevin Leroy ...
Raoul
Félicien Pitsaer ...
Steve
Rémy Renaud ...
Philippo (as Remy Renaud)
Annette Closset ...
La Directrice du Centre
Fabian Marnette ...
Rino
Pierre Nisse ...
Apprenti Soudeur 1
Stephan Barbason ...
Apprenti Soudeur 2
David Manna ...
Apprenti Soudeur 3
Abdellah Amarjouf ...
Apprenti Soudeur 4
Jimmy Deloof ...
Dany
Anne Gerard ...
La Mère de Dany (as Gérard Anne)
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Storyline

Olivier - meticulous, careful, even-handed - teaches carpentry at a vocational school in Liège. He's asked to take on Francis, 16, a new student. He declines the request then begins to watch, even spy on, the new lad. Olivier knows something. Later that day, he's visited by Magali, his ex-wife, who tells him that she's remarrying and is pregnant. Olivier seems to follow instinctive responses: "why today?" he demands of Magali; he continues to follow Francis; he changes his mind about enrolling the youth. What's the history between the two? After that becomes clear, what is it Olivier will do? Is this precise and measured carpenter in control of himself? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

From The Directors Of "La Promesse" and "Rosetta". See more »

Genres:

Drama | Mystery

Certificate:

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Parents Guide:

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Details

Official Sites:

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Language:

Release Date:

9 October 2002 (Belgium)  »

Also Known As:

El hijo  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$585 (USA) (30 May 2003)

Gross:

$65,571 (USA) (17 October 2003)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Chosen by "Telerama" (France) as one of the 10 best pictures of 2002 (#03) See more »

Connections

Featured in Siskel & Ebert: Best of 2003 (2004) See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Good Carpenter of Liege
24 March 2003 | by (London) – See all my reviews

The rapt watchfulness of this film is almost intolerable.

The minutiae of the woodwork instructor protagonist's drab and solitary daily existence merely repel us at first: his opaque, inexpressive, sulky-looking face (on the rare occasions that we see it, as opposed to the back of his neck) seems to confirm that there is nothing here for us, nothing but the muffled dullness of a dead-end existence, nothing but the droning of power tools in the sullen workshop and the heating-up of tinned soup in the bare little apartment.

Then the film's remorseless attention to the mundane starts to hint at some turmoil of this man's inner life, which is being kept rigorously in check by everyday rituals: the conscientious painful sit-ups, the critical measurement of the trainees' clumsy work. Something unbearable is being borne. Some terrible price is being paid. Olivier is like some powerful caged mammal, ever darting just ahead the camera's reach. We fear for the boys in his domininion -- especially for the new trainee, whom he stalks with a feral intensity.

And now we learn the awful sadness of what ails Olivier, and what has brought everything to a head. Now the camera watches his every move with mixed dread and wonder. Now every little thing he does matters, as we struggle to gauge what he will do next. Now the details of just what nail to use, of the trick to carrying a heavy wooden lintel (so like a cross), become utterly compelling -- not as displacement activities, but as things that can be relied upon, as tangible truths.

And finally, on long drive to a timber yard one late-autumn weekend, we watch a miracle unfold: halting, clumsy, almost wordless, although there is a sort of confession, and a sort of catechism. Wet leaves still stick to the boy's back from a momentary struggle in a wood as the newly-cut planks are stacked, silently, in the trailer. Master and apprentice are joined by the mystery of their craft. A father without a son has found a son without a father.

And now, at last, we understand that the film's watchfulness has been Olivier's own: his need to observe, to assess, to measure up (something for which he has a peculiar knack), in order to decide how the right thing is to be done. For only then is it done decisively, deftly and truly.

That a film of such simplicity, unflinching honesty and moral intensity can be made today is itself little short of miraculous. In both its symbolic language and its belief in the possibility of grace, it is firmly rooted in a particular north-European pietistic (and specifically Catholic) tradition. But never mind about that. This is a genuine and beautifully modest masterpiece of humane realism.


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