Thursday, 19 November 2009

I've Never Really Liked Children Anyway

Look, I get naturalism. It's fine. I quite like it sometimes. But this, this just didn't do it for me. I'm sorry.

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (or the Dardenne Brothers, as they are often referred to) are one of only six filmmakers to have twice won the Palme d'Or at Cannes - the others being Alf Sjöberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Shohei Imamura, Ermir Kusturica and Billie August. Their two wins are also the only two wins for Belgium, ever, at the festival. The Child (or L'enfant) was their most recent win, in 2005.

It's the story of Bruno, a petty criminal, who has a baby with his girlfriend Sonia. He seems to have no qualms, no shame, and no real sense of morality, but for all intents and purposes he seems likable enough. The couple seem very young (at a few points they seem to act as little more than children themselves), but they seem very happy until Bruno does something rash, selfish, greedy and incredibly stupid regarding their new baby, Jimmy. One thing leads to another, but still nothing much seems to happen - naturalism, remember.

That, I think, is what doesn't quite work for me here. What is the film trying to say? Crime doesn't pay? Never heard that one before. Naturalism works for me when it is emblematic of a bigger picture, when by saying little it is actually saying volumes, and I don't get that from L'enfant. I really don't. It just seems to happily muddle its way through a nice little story without really drawing you in or putting you off, and ends up with something kind of meh. Yes, Bruno grows in the film, but in a very cliched way, and still, I feel, in a selfish way. I ultimately just don't care about him, and I don't know Sonia enough to care that much about her either.

The elements of the film were all fine. The actors did a fine job with their characters, I suppose. It looked how a naturalistic film should look. It sounded how a naturalistic film should sound (there was absolutely no non-diegetic music in the film.) But it just. Didn't. Do it for me. I'm not sorry I watched it, but I'm leaving it with 2 stars, and putting the Dardenne's Rosetta on my list of films to watch.

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