Young, unmarried couple Sonia and Bruno have just had a son, who Sonia names Jimmy. Bruno, who did not visit her while she was in the hospital, scoffs at the notion of what he considers traditional employment, instead eking out a living primarily on petty crimes committed with his fourteen year old associate, Steve. He even sublets Sonia's small apartment while she is in the hospital, he sleeping either in the homeless shelter or squatting in what he calls his "shack" down by the river. On the day after Sonia gets out of the hospital, she allows Bruno to take Jimmy for a walk while she stands in line for her benefits. On that walk, Bruno makes the unilateral decision to sell Jimmy to a black market adoption agency. Upon finding out what Bruno has done, Sonia has a breakdown and falls unconscious. Fearing that Sonia will turn him over to the police when she regains consciousness, Bruno tries to get Jimmy back while he leaves Sonia in the hospital in her unconscious state. But Bruno ...Written by
L'infant belongs to Sophie and Bruno, both feckless, petty criminals, in a seedy Belgian city. She has just come out of prison (?)with the newborn. She goes to their apartment but finds that Bruno has sublet the place to a bilious couple, so she has to track Bruno down at work trying to cadge small change from passers by. He is pleased to see her but diffident towards his son: Jimmy.
They spend the night in a shelter, or rather she does, as he cuts his time short to fence his stolen goods to a woman who drops a hint that if they're not up to raising a child they could adopt it out for a good price.
After showing us how they can only seem to communicate through adolescent rough housing, we are left with the distinct impression that they are too immature for parenthood. A few days later, while they wait in line, Bruno offers to walk the baby. He then sells it to a baby selling gang, and returns to show Sophie the wad of cash. Sophie passes out from shock.
We see not one wit of shame or guilt from Bruno up to this point. He is, we presume, an amoral street thug, out for how to make the next buck, and found the baby to good an opportunity to pass up for a sizable reward. Besides, given the empty life the baby will be looking forward to, the adoption by a better off couple doesn't seem to be bad for the child.
Sophie passing out seems to bring him to his senses. Is he remorseful? Does he love her? Up to this point all we have seen of their relationship is one of two vapid adolescent children, with no hint of any plans to make a future for their off-spring.
He carries her to a hospital and starts calling his go between to have the deal undone. At this point his motivation is left deliberately unclear. Is he doing so because he regrets his actions and needs to make it up to Sophie, or is he doing it because her accusations are over heard by the staff and the police will soon be carting him off to jail? In any event he manages to get the child back, giving up the E5,000 without a whimper, but then faces the angry brokers who are now out their E5,000. When he returns to the hospital with the baby the police are there and he makes up the story that he was just pretending to sell the child as revenge for her infidelity, and then calmly disowns the child as his.
Sophie refuses to talk with him and the police have to back off, and at this point in the movie we are no clearer to discerning any hint of empathy stirring in Bruno's pock marked face. I felt sorry for Sophie in her realization that her lover is as calloused as his feet, but presumed she would soon allow him back into her life. Yet as morally revolted as I was by Bruno, I still wanted to see if he could manage some kind of redemption.
The movie ends in leaving us to answer that question ourselves.
The crux of the movie is Bruno's character, or lack of it. He is no sociopath; he is not evil; his bland personality is as banal and unattractive as cold soup. He seems to not be dangerous, until faced with too much temptation to his greed. Yet he is difficult to hate. He is like that black sheep relative we all have and shake our heads about, so that we can whistle past the graveyard of our own inadequacies. He is what humanity can become when the spirit slumbers. He is society's unwitting sin eater.
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