×

The Child

Those masters of small-scale realism, Belgian brothers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, have created yet another beautifully acted, exquisitely observed morality tale in "The Child," the story of a directionless young couple whose lives are irretrievably altered when they have a baby. Perfectly consistent with the Dardennes' widely lauded work of the last decade, pic won't do much to win the brothers any new fans, but will travel far on the fest circuit and attract the interest of the same arthouse distribs that have supported them in the past.

With:
Bruno - Jeremie Renier Sonia - Deborah Francois Steve - Jeremie Segard Young Thug - Fabrizio Rongione Plainclothes Officer - Olivier Gourmet

Those masters of small-scale realism, Belgian brothers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, have created yet another beautifully acted, exquisitely observed morality tale in “The Child,” the story of a directionless young couple whose lives are irretrievably altered when they have a baby. Perfectly consistent with the Dardennes widely lauded work of the last decade, pic won’t do much to win the brothers any new fans (or bigger box office), but will travel far on the fest circuit and attract the interest of the same arthouse distribs that have supported them in the past.

In their three best-known features — “La Promesse,” “Rosetta” and “The Son” — the Dardennes show a particular interest in observing characters through the work they do (or try to do) to survive amid often harsh and forbidding conditions, and “The Child” is no exception. Only here, 20-year-old Bruno (Jeremie Renier, who made his screen debut in “La Promesse”) is defined by his assiduous avoidance of anything resembling a nine-to- five.

Popular on Variety

He proceeds to piece together a modest income from panhandling and petty theft on the streets of Seraing — the Eastern Belgium steel town that has long served as the Dardennes’ home base.

Bruno’s 18-year-old girlfriend, Sonia (angelic newcomer Deborah Francois), returns home after giving birth to their son, Jimmy, only to find that Bruno has sublet their apartment out to total strangers. It’s a telling scene that offers early indication of how ill prepared Bruno is for parental responsibility, and also shows that, in the world of “The Child,” everything, even a human being, is potentially salable merchandise.

Indeed, the “child” of pic’s title is not necessarily Jimmy — it could be Bruno or even Sonia, who supports Bruno in his illicit dealings and shares in his habit of squandering money on luxuries.

But when Bruno, desperate for cash and terrified at the prospect of raising his son, sells Jimmy to some black-market connections who promise to find the infant an adoptive home, Sonia goes into a state of shock. While she recovers in a hospital, Bruno sets out to undo his fateful deed and, as he does, “The Child” becomes a devastating study in greed, strongly reminiscent of Robert Bresson’s classic “L’Argent.”

Shooting on location with just a few actors and a handheld camera, the Dardennes (who got their start in documentaries) produce a kind of spare, direct cinema that makes most other movies look positively gluttonous by comparison. Yet within that microscopic, claustrophobic canvas, they manage to achieve often-stunning flurries of drama and complex human emotion.

In “The Child,” the key sequence in which Bruno places Jimmy on the auction block unfolds inside an abandoned building, in almost total darkness, during a single unbroken camera take — yet this may be a more riveting suspense set piece than anything in any of the advertised thrillers currently playing on the Croisette. Ditto the entire third act of the film, which keeps the audience in a state of heightened anxiety right up to the enormously moving finale.

Though it doesn’t deploy any formal devices as daring as the relentless over-the-shoulder p.o.v. from which nearly the entirety of the brothers’ last pic “The Son” was shot, “The Child” is nevertheless a technically precise film, lensed by longtime Dardenne collaborator Alain Marcoen with his typical reliance on unfiltered natural light and elegant shallow-space compositions.

Pic also isn’t built around a single, convulsively powerful performance in the way of “The Son” or “Rosetta,” though in the decade since “La Promesse” Renier has developed into a lankily charismatic leading man with a hard, working-class face. Natch, the Dardennes’ good luck charm, Olivier Gourmet, turns in a brief cameo as the detective who interrogates Bruno in one of pic’s hospital scenes.

The Child

Belgium-France

Production: A Diaphana (in France)/Cineart (in Belgium) release of a Les Films du Fleuve and Archipel 35 presentation of a Les Films du Fleuve, Archipel 35, RTBF, Scope Invest, ARTE France Cinema co-production, with support from Centre du Cinema et de l'Audiovisuel de la Communaute de Belgique et des Teledistributeurs Wallons, Eurimages, the MEDIA Plus Programme of the European Community and La Loterie Nationale de Belgique, with the participation of Canal +, Centre National de la Cinematographie, La Region Wallonne and the Tax Shelter of Belgian. (International sales: Celluloid Dreams, Paris.) Produced by Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, Denis Freyd. Directed, written by Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne.

Crew: Camera (color), Alain Marcoen; editor, Marie-Helene Dozo; set decorator, Igor Gabriel; costume designer, Monic Parelle; sound (Dolby Digital), Thomas Gauder; associate producers, Arlette Zylberberg, Genevieve Lemal, Alexandre Lippens; assistant director, Bernard Garant. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (competing), May 16, 2005. Running time: 95 MIN.

With: Bruno - Jeremie Renier Sonia - Deborah Francois Steve - Jeremie Segard Young Thug - Fabrizio Rongione Plainclothes Officer - Olivier Gourmet

More Film

  • 'Parasite,' 'Jojo Rabbit' Win ACE Eddie

    'Parasite,' 'Jojo Rabbit' Win ACE Eddie Awards for Top Feature Films

    “Parasite” and “Jojo Rabbit” have won the top feature film trophies at the 70th Annual ACE Eddie Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Jinmo Yang won the dramatic feature category for “Parasite” over “Ford v Ferrari,” “Joker,” “The Irishman,” and “Marriage Story.” The victory marks the first time in ACE Eddie Awards history that a [...]

  • Gregg Smith, Dancer and Choreographer Assistant,

    Gregg Smith, Dancer and Choreographer Assistant, Dies at 73

    Gregg Smith, a dancer, casting director and assistant choreographer who had a long association with director Kenny Ortega, has died. He was 73. Smith died on Jan. 1. The industry veteran worked as a performer in the national touring company of the musical “Hair” and in a Los Angeles production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He [...]

  • Oscar Isaac Golden Globes 2016

    Film News Roundup: Oscar Isaac Joins Superhero Movie 'The Great Machine'

    In today’s film news roundup, Oscar Isaac boards “The Great Machine,” Keira Knightley joins “Silent Night” and “The Dog Doc” finds a home. CASTINGS Legendary has closed a deal for Oscar Isaac to star in and produce superhero saga “The Great Machine.” The project is based on Brian K. Vaughan’s comic book series “Ex Machina” [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    U.S. Movie Admissions Plunge 4.6% in 2019 Amid Box Office Decline

    U.S. movie admissions slid 4.6% last year to 1.24 billion, the second lowest admissions number during the current century, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) has reported. North American box office for the year declined 4.1% to $11.4 billion, NATO said Friday. That figure was in line with the estimate released at the end [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'National Treasure 3' Moves Ahead From Disney, Jerry Bruckheimer

    Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer are moving ahead with a third “National Treasure” movie with “Bad Boys for Life” screenwriter Chris Bremner tapped to write the script. Bremner has also signed to write a fourth “Bad Boys” for Sony with Bruckheimer producing. Bruckheimer produced the three “Bad Boys” and the two “National Treasure” movies. The “National [...]

  • Mike (WILL SMITH), Marcus (MARTIN LAWRENCE)

    'Bad Boys 4' in the Works at Sony Pictures

    Sony Pictures has launched early development of an untitled fourth “Bad Boys” movie with “Bad Boys for Life” screenwriter Chris Bremner returning to write the script. Bremner has also signed to write “National Treasure 3” for Disney with Jerry Bruckheimer producing. Bruckheimer produced the three “Bad Boys” and the two “National Treasure” movies. Bremner teamed [...]

  • Corsican Summer, Los Conductos

    Belgium's Best Friend Forever Nabs Berlinale-Bound 'Los Conductos,' 'Corsican Summer' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Brussels-based company Best Friend Forever acquired two debut features, Camilo Restrepo’s Berlinale-bound “Los Conductos” and Pascal Tagnati’s “Corsican Summer.” Both films are produced by up and coming outfit 5à7 films. Set to premiere at the Berlinale’s new competitive section Encounters, “Los Conductos” is a Spanish-language film set in Medellin (Colombia) and loosely based on the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content