L'Enfant (The Child)
Jean Pierre and Luc Dardenne
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
New father Bruno takes his infant son out for a stroll and ends up selling him on the black market. He then tries to get him back, with a full dose of brutal repercussions that follow.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Normally, Iím a big fan of films that win the coveted Palme díOr at the Cannes Film Festival. Past winners such as PULP FICTION, BARTON FINK, WILD AT HEART, and SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE showed that the folks at Cannes really knew original and compelling work when they saw it. I wish the same could be said about the 2005 winner LíENFANT, a horribly drab and directionless film, wrapped in a falsely interesting premise. A man who sells his baby and spends the film trying to get it back (so it says on the DVD cover!) is definitely a story I could get into, but to no avail, as it becomes merely a side plot. Most of the film is a reality style series of events that nobody cares about; a supposed journey of self discovery for the male lead that comes out of left field and makes for a very slow and lifeless movie. It almost feels like the directors didnít finish writing the script and came up with various scenarios for the characters while they were shooting. That feel may be a refreshing change to some high brow critics out there that have hailed the film as astonishing and impassioned, but to one who requires more then just a series of shocking events - including a cohesive story - itís anything but.
The performances here are more reactionary then anything, not really allowing most of the cast to show any range. (And that out of place and over the top emotional moment at the end of the film does NOT count!) The only person to come out of this one with a little bit of life showing is actress Deborah Francois, whose character Sonia does get better as the film goes along. But as a whole, the movie has so many flaws that itís hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong. Top of the list would have to be making the filmís male lead so unlikable that when the tables turn and he is in peril, the audience no longer cares. Face it folks, originality is a terrific thing, but some critics are so desperate for a new and exciting new cinematic high (especially if itís a foreign film Ė extra smart points!), that theyíll praise anything with a hair of difference. LíENFANT (THE CHILD) is that film, hailed as complex and uncompromising, but if you ask this honest critic the real skinny about the movie, Iíd tell you that this seemingly good kid that turns bad needs to be spanked and sent to bed.
Hearing the motivations behind the two directorís reasons for making this film in the discís only featurette, didnít change my opinion one bit. Besides, I would say that the lack of extras wouldnít have made a difference for me anyway. (Though it might for fans!)
Interview With The Directors (29:52): A semi-interesting chat with the two directors at a local radio station. The big problem here is not just that anyone who doesnít speak French will have to read the subtitles for this interview, but the fact that the radio host asking the questions does a lot more talking than the guests - not a good thing. The two auteurs (a matter of opinion!) talk about everything from inspiration for the film, to the meaning of the story and its characters (when they can get a word in edgewise!) - strictly for fans of the film.
There is also a Previews section featuring Trailers for HOUSE OF SAND, QUINCEANERA, DONíT COME KNOCKING, ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL, FRIENDS WITH MONEY and CACHE.
In this day and age of sequels and mindless popcorn films, I fully crave a film with originality and vision. This does not mean however that I will just say that any film that is slightly different (and foreign!) is genius. LíENFANT had a great premise, but lost its way early on and turned into a boring and broad mess that didnít leave a good impression on me. (Hell, I even watched this with my wife who loves foreign films and she thought it was crap!) Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and believe me when I tell you that this film, this child, is one that only a mother could love.