Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Child (2006)

More fun with neo-realism: This newest film from the Dardennes is about fatherhood, the coming of responsibility and being able to live up to that responsibility. We follow a young petty hood who tries to correct an extremely grievous error towards his new child and his girlfriend on his part without quite understanding why he feels the need to correct it, and as he tried to right this particular wrong, we sense that this may be the first time he's ever felt the need to do so. The leads, likely, were cast for their looks and not their ability (you can tell what kind of characters they'll be playing from the moment you see them), but happily the involved parties also have acting ability to burn. (Granted, Jeremie Renier is a ringer, but still.) The stark craftsmanship, enhanced by you-are-there videography, keeps the story as spare and simple as possible while at the same time allowing the principals room to breathe and eventually grow. (Compare this to The Son, which feels so basic as to be Tupperware-hermetic.) What's interesting is that, even within the framework of the stark, the Dardennes keep the film pretty lively. There's even a car chase, though it's something of a shame that the organized-crime subplot flames out. This concentration on action may be part of the design or it may be a happy accident, but the surfeit of occurence keeps the character evolution from jabbing us in the ribs. Instead, the film builds almost imperceptibly to the lead's epiphany, and then we cut to black, which is just brilliant. The double-edged title, ultimately, points us towards the idea that spiritual birth can be as painful as the physical kind.

Grade: B+


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