Unemployed twenty-year old Bruno (Jérémie Renier) lives with his eighteen-year-old girlfriend Sonia (Déborah François) in the east Belgian steel town of Seraing. They get by on Sonia's unemployment benefits and Bruno's small time thieving with his little gang of kids. After Sonia has given birth to their child, Jimmy, she returns home to find that Bruno has sublet their apartment to strangers. Desperate for money and unable to face his parental responsibilities, Bruno sells Jimmy to a black market connection, who promises to find the child an adoptive home. Sonia goes into shock at the news and Bruno sets out to try and undo his callous deed, getting further into trouble while Sonia continues to reject him. But when his young accomplice Steve (Jérémie Segard) gets caught, Bruno's conscience kicks in.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
As Cannes Palme d'Or winners go, The Child is something of a surprise; it is virtually a two hander in which the jobless Bruno and Sonia have a baby, and their struggle with poverty leads to Bruno's impulsive decision to sell the baby on the black market. Realising how deeply he has hurt Sonia, he tries to undo the damage. It's a thin story and the film is unremarkable in cinematic terms, except for the tension that the Dardennes manage to maintain, thanks to top performances from Jérémie Renier and Déborah François.
The jury's choice undermines one's confidence in the Cannes jury room, considering that other prize winners like Michael Haneke's Hidden, Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers or Tommy Lee Jones' Three Burials, for starters, seem to achieve more lasting value. Still The Child is an intense and focused film, with Bruno's emotional arc ending in a moving full stop when remorse and love combine to deliver the pay off for the audience.
The film's simple premise was born one day in the very town where it was eventually filmed, triggered by the sight of a lone mum walking her baby in a pram, morning, afternoon and evening - always without the father. This image was the catalyst for the Dardennes (they were shooting their previous film, The Son), whose imaginary father became Bruno.
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CHILD, THE (M)
CAST: Jérémie Renier, Déborah François, Jérémie Segard, Fabrizio Rongione, Olivier Gourmet, Stéphane Bissot, Mireille Bailly
PRODUCER: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, Denis Freyd
DIRECTOR: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
SCRIPT: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alain Marcoen
EDITOR: Marie-Hélène Dozo
MUSIC: Not credited
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Igor Gabriel
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 24, 2006
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.