Monday, January 08, 2007


Men deciding badly

By Edward Copeland
I finally caught up with Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's L'Enfant, which has earned a lot of praise and took the Golden Palm at Cannes in 2005 before getting a U.S. release in 2006. It's fine — but I have to say, I don't quite see what all the fuss is about.

L'Enfant focuses on a downtrodden young couple named Bruno and Sonia (Jeremie Renier, Deborah Francois) living off welfare and whatever he can steal whose lives change when they have a baby. Always looking for cash, Bruno decides soon after the child's birth to sell the baby to an adoption ring — an act that devastates Sonia and their relationship and prompts Bruno to rush to get the child back.

The catch: Though he didn't spend any of the cash, the baby brokers want Bruno to pay them back double for the money that they've lost by not having the baby to sell themselves. The rest of the short film details Bruno trying to get the cash and find a way back into Sonia's good graces, including with the help of a 14-year-old thief he works with (Jeremie Segard).

L'Enfant is a slice of very grim life, focusing especially on how Bruno grows and changes through his mistake, but emotionally, it left me rather cold. Tsotsi, also released in the U.S. this year and which won the Oscar for foreign film last year, held a lot more resonance to me when it told the tale of a South African thug who changes when he grows attached to a child he accidentally steals.

In L'Enfant, while it's understandable that Bruno shows no connection to the child himself, I never got much of a feeling for the baby from Sonia either — most of her emotion is aimed at anger at Bruno, so the film never really worked me up enough to care about whether the couple reunites.

There's also no sense of real threat to Bruno from the criminals who want more money from him. The film's final scenes obviously aim to be an emotional breaking point for the audience, but what proceeds it is so ho-hum that it didn't affect me much at all.

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