I just don't know where I am with Cannes Palm D'Or winners anymore. I'm looking at my DVD box here: "more than a masterpiece" "the most exciting, emotionally complex, and incredibly acted film you're likely to see all year". I'm about to email British Trading Standards for false advertising.
It's been a long time since I watched a film that was so directorially listless, dull, and uninspiring. I suppose because the two leads cry at each other, with no dialogue, for two minutes at the end, that that is in some way meant to make up for the complete lack of emotional depth I'd had to sit through: it simply won't wash.
I'm a great fan of European cinema, but that film's almost universal praise galls me, and kind of shocks me, too. It's made me scared of watching another well-prized film again. The central conceit of child selling looked boring (and is, by the way, resolved a third of the way into the movie) from the outset, but then the childishness between the two leads blossomed, and then...and then...NOTHING ELSE. The guy's a crook and doesn't really think about changing - even AFTER the baby selling incident - and in fact only does so when it's so beyond doubt he's going to get caught by the police, and also conveniently gets him out of paying back his debt to the gangsters! How noble. The morals of this film are so vague and basic, I hate watching a film and afterwards think 'my life hasn't been enriched in any way whatsoever'.
I don't really care about 'likeable characters' and all that baloney, but surely the first invenstment you make in a movie is caring about its outcome and how it affects the characters?!
The point at which I realised I hated his film was the farting episode. Yes, you read that right, the farting episode. The two characters are waiting for someone, and one of them farts. The other then laughs. End of scene. Now we already know the two are mates, there is no extra comaraderie struck up here, it's just a really base, cheap laugh, that Euro cinema constantly crows about the evils of (eek! whisper it...) Hollywood. Imagine you're watching a Will Ferrell movie and someone makes a fart joke. You roll your eyes and complain: rightly so! Then, on top of that, I realised I didn't care if he threw the baby in the bloody river.
There's almost zero character arc in any of them. 'She' seems a bit of a slapper, and sometimes hates him, sometimes loves him, whatever is most convenient for the scene at hand. 'He' is a stupid thief who can't stop wasting money and getting in trouble, and whenever he has a chance at redemption, blows it. As stated above, he only gives up when he knows there's nowhere else to go.
I'll never see another Dardenne Bros movie ever again. European cinema deserves better than this tripe. And the script is so dull! Totally lacking any invention or insight. "OOh, but it's the fact that HE'S the child of the film." Yeah...and...so...what? That doesn't make it interesting or profound.
I've really no idea why this film has pissed me off so much. I just got through watching it about ten minutes ago, so maybe I'll have cooled towards tomorrow. I very much doubt it.
The acting was good and I liked the gritty tone. But the film didn't get to anything, at least for me: 6/10.
Seen better films than this one ( and a lot worse, it has to be said ).
But overall I expected more from a Palme D'or winner.
I'd have to agree with essentially the notion that the film does not meet expectations, expectations spawned by years and years of conditioning to certain conventions of cinema. For the most part, it is an uneventful film. It is hard to call it a perfect film, or even a great film. However, I did find it moving and effective. Some scenes and moments are indeed strange (why does Bruno's mother react so listlessly? etc.); seeing as how it is a film that wanted to reflect a realism akin to what such "real-life" characters would experience, it falls flat, wrong, at certain moments. But for what the Dardenne's wanted to do, I believe they were fairly successful. I liked that they wanted to keep to a minimalist, unconventional notion of cinema (lack of shot-reverse shot, very long takes, handheld, etc.), and in this they were successful in not exuding a cinematic quality, but an acceptable realism. There are several other filmmakers/films that have a similar approach, done before and after L'Enfant, but few are as effective in conveying an honest sense of time, reality, and life.
Thanks for this perfect review. Couldnt agree more!
This film is an indictment of all that is putrid in European life. It is childish, totally self-centered and without moral compass. And what redemption? Does Bruno see the error of his ways - NO! He cries because he is caught. Think WWII and fraudulent redemption of the nazi into good Germans.