L’enfant – Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne

Even more than its striking story, this film succeeds because of the almost animal-like physical expressions of its main characters, Bruno and Sonia: desire, playfulness, betrayal, hatred, love. Here is a film where–shockingly–the reprehensible behavior of the main character doesn’t sink the whole thing, and where our efforts to root for these characters doesn’t go unrewarded.

The story in L’enfant doesn’t revolve quite as much around the main character’s journey to retrieve his infant son from the very black market he has sold the child into as the reviews and movie blurbs had led me to believe. And the movie is far from the “modern day fairy tale” label it gets on the back of the DVD box. The sale and retrieval of the infant son happens in a mere 1/2 hour or so at the center of the movie. The rest of the film is the establishment (and the unravelment?) of the relationship between Sonia and Bruno, the infant’s parents, and the subtle but inspiring changes that take place in Bruno as he comes to the end of himself.

The final scene between Bruno and Sonia is very moving. It brings the story to a satisfying conclusion without tieing up all the loose ends. It can only wrap this gift of a film in a bow made of the kind of materials it has at hand. Maybe there isn’t restoration or forgiveness, but then again, maybe there is. Or maybe it is something more: something that can’t be confined by the words that might have been exchanged at the end of a lesser film trying to do what this film does so effortlessly.


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