L’Enfant (2005), or World’s Best Dad

11 06 2009

Today’s film deals with the issue of bad parenting. Now, when I say bad parenting, I don’t mean bringing your son or daughter to band practice when they clearly don’t want to go. I mean more like child endangerment of the highest degree. Today’s feature, L’enfant, winner of the Palme d’Or in ’05, features prominently a number of shockingly bad decisions made by a completely inept druggie father named Bruno. It is a strong statement by the Dardenne brothers about the listless state of European youth, and I really rather enjoyed it.

This is not a fun-filled film. It’s about a young punk named Bruno who is in over his head in life. He has a girlfriend who he boneheadedly impregnated, a pathetic excuse for a gang that barely keeps him alive, and a whole list of other problems that become apparent quickly enough. His girlfriend Sonia, after delivering their son and presenting him to Bruno, finds that he is emotionally indifferent to the boy. He really has no desire to do anything in his life, much less take care of a child. So, one day, when Sonia seeks out Bruno on the streets to find that he sold their child (!!!!!!!!), he is genuinely surprised that she feels that this is somewhat of a boner. Bruno is then forced by the incredulous Sonia to find their son and buy him back, scouring the filthy underbelly of Belgium to discover where the baby went. Can Bruno find his son in time to buy him back?
What an intriguing story! I was completely floored by the revelation of his son’s wholesale. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this movie, but that was near the last thing I would have guessed. Imagine coming home from work one day to discover that your significant other sold your kid(s). I would be a stupified mess, I’m sure. I mean, I’m stupified just by WATCHING someone sell their baby, so if it happened to me I’d probably just shut off like a computer.

The acting is incredibly organic, to the point that if it were not so well shot I would have assumed it was a documentary. Jeremie Renier plays Bruno, and he is a wonder. I have rarely seen a character with such little chance for redemption. He is a total jerk, and while it’s true that his immaturity plays a part, he is still a horrible human being with very few scruples. Sonia, played by Deborah Francois, is, by proxy, also kind of horrible. She is a miserable excuse for a young woman, staying in a relationship like that and taking Bruno’s many fuck-ups in the face of their great and foolish love. These two actors make a doomed couple seem so real and yet so epic and powerful, and I truly revere their performances.

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne are two brothers that I am very interested in. This is the first movie of theirs that I have seen, and I am hooked. Looking into their bio, I can see they have a love of the organic. Looking at this movie I can confirm it. Their stories all come from a place of intense realism that lends itself well to the natural drama of European youth. They are very talented as auteurs, and much of the movie breezes by if you are a admirer of cinematography, especially the exceptional chase scenes towards the end. I hope to see a lot more of them in the coming months. Their newest movie is called Le Silence de Lorna, and you guys might see that one on this site soon enough!

It’s shocking, provocative, thought-provoking, and emotionally challenging. It most definitely deserved the Palme d’Or that year, I’ll say that. It has everything that a little FILM SNOB like me wants, and even a few things that I didn’t know I wanted. If you want a film to confront you, this film will call all your emotional bluffs and leave you stripped a tad bit. I give L’enfant 9 1/2 retailed babies out of 10! A high recommendation!

Tomorrow I will get to work on Goregirl’s recommendations with my PSA on Wings of Desire! Until then!!!

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