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Independent foreign movies don’t tend to have the budget for big sets, don’t often manage to attract big named stars (even within their own countries) and seldom involve big explosions and effects to visually entice the audience. They normally make up for all these, let’s say, disadvantages by trying much harder with the script, the story and the performances. The end result, more often than not, is a small but rich and original treat that gives food for thought to the viewer.

L'Enfant

Movie


Sonia has just had a baby. She’s only eighteen years old and lives with her petty thief boyfriend, Bruno, in a cold shack under a bridge (after he lost their previous flat). They are young and apparently very much in love, but although Bruno is the father of the child, fatherhood isn’t his forte—small time crime is. He runs a team of young boy thieves who steal for him, but his income is expectedly variable and, pretty soon, his desire to make a larger amount of money tempts him to do the unthinkable. Once done, no matter how hard he tries to get his life back to the way it was, he only ends up spiralling towards his own inevitably bleak fate. Brief as this synopsis may be, to say much more would do an injustice to the excellent story and the shockingly reckless act around which it is centred.

The characters are typically European. In other words they are well-conceived, deep and realistic, seldom playing to any kind of stereotypes. Bruno is naïve, selfish and misguided, but you can see that his child-like personality does give him the capacity to be very loving and affectionate, and almost excuses some of his mistakes—almost. He has respect and honour amidst his fellow thieves, although that also does not make up for his actions and his criminal behaviour. Jeremie Renier is outstanding as Bruno, really capturing the essence of this petty crook, forever dancing on the wrong side of the law and then wondering why those around him get hurt. Deborah Francois portrays his girlfriend, the mother of his child, who is also naïve in believing that she has any future with this thief who lives under a bridge. She puts in a very honest, realistic performance.

L'Enfant
L’Enfant isn’t a particularly cheery piece of viewing, but I like the way in which it makes part of you root for the criminal lead character without diminishing the realism of the story, and whilst making you aware of what fate awaits both him and everybody around him. It is a small but powerful art-house offering which is sure to please fans of those who have previously enjoyed the Dardenne Brothers’ work (like Rosetta and The Son) and those who like a much more human drama.

Video


L’Enfant comes presented in a reasonable if unexceptional 1.66:1 aspect ratio, anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer. Detail is barely acceptable, with some softness, lots of inherent grain (although this often adds to the mood of the story, I doubt it was all intentional) but luckily no signs of edge enhancement and digital artefacting. The colour scheme is fairly bleak, although this too is utterly in line with the production, with understandably faded colours but disappointingly shallow blacks.

L'Enfant

Audio


We get the original French language track to accompany the movie, in decent enough Dolby Digital 5.1. Dialogue comes clearly and coherently, predominantly from the frontal array, with what little there is in the way of effects and background atmospherics giving the surrounds a minimal amount to do. The score is barely noticeable for the most part, other than in a couple of the more cheery sequences. Bass is almost non-existent, but overall it is a perfectly acceptable track for this kind of release.

Extras


In the way of extras, we get an interview with the directors, the Dardenne Brothers. Running at twenty-two minutes in length and all in French with English subtitles, it explains how they came up with the idea for this story, where they set it, how they created the characters, with discussions of the cast involved, in particular praising the performances of the two leads. There are a few stills from the production to run with their vocal monologue (although I have to say that only one of them appears to speak for the entirety of this offering) and overall it is quite an informative extra, though not as satisfying as a full commentary. We also get the theatrical trailer and a filmography for the Dardenne Brothers.

L'Enfant

Overall


L’Enfant is a typically low-budget Euro-drama, with very real characters and a compelling story to engage the viewer. Moving and compassionate, yet also shocking and emotionally devastating, it is deserving of its Palme d’Or prize. This release has decent enough video and audio, but is slightly disappointing in terms of extras, although the interesting interview included does take it a long way away from being a bare-bones disc. If you like your movies rich and dramatic then you can’t go wrong with this production.


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