L'Enfant (The Child)

Winner of the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, L'Enfant is a forceful, impassioned and unsparing triumph from Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, the Belgian brothers acclaimed for writing and directing La Promesse, Rosetta and Le Fils. L'Enfant refers to Jimmy, the baby born to Bruno (Jeremie Renier), a petty thief, and his eighteen-year-old girlfriend, Sonia (Deborah Francois). Neither has a clue about how to raise the child in the poverty of their Belgian steel town. When Bruno sells the baby on the black market, Sonia is driven to desperation. Using a hand-held camera, the Dardennes — with a documentary rigor that recalls Robert Bresson's classic Pickpocket — follow these lovers as they try to find a moral ground in a world that cuts them no slack. Renier and Francois give deeply affecting performances that help soften the film's harsh blows. But only in the compassionate eye of the Dardennes do these three children achieve a state of grace.

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From The Archives Issue 311: February 21, 1980
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