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
Another powerful story of the downtrodden from the Dardennes
The Dardennes, who won their second Palme d"Or at Cannes this year with "L'Enfant" (The Child), describe it as "a love story that is also the story of a father." Twenty-year-old Bruno (Jérémie Renier) is a petty thief and scam artist in Seraing, an east Belgian steel town, who lives off his girlfriend's welfare and impulsively spends whatever he steals. When eighteen-year-old Sonia (Déborah François) returns after the birth of their son Jimmy, Bruno's far worse than merely unready to accept the responsibility of fatherhood. Unbeknownst to Sonia, he decides to sell the baby on the black market. The film is about what happens following this grotesquely ill-advised decision. Who is really the "child" here? Well, clearly the story is about Bruno.
"L'Enfant" is urgent with movement and has little talk. As with the 1996 "La promesse" (The Promise, 1996), where Jérémie Renier debuted, "Rosetta" (1999), and "Le Fils" (The Son, 2003), the action is ceaseless and obsessive and seems almost real-time. But the Dardennes make every minute count. In those rare moments when the hyper-kinetic Bruno is momentarily still and the camera looks into his face, there's a strong sense of the doubt that will lead to his transformation. When Bruno tells Sonia "I'm sorry," or "I need you" and "I love you" the words carry weight because he doesn't normally ever say such things. But Sonia says, "You lie as you breathe." "L'Enfant" is as powerful and accomplished as anything the Dardennes have done, and as thought-provoking.
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