Cinema - L’Enfant

It is some artistic feat to get an audience to sympathise with a character who seemingly has no redeeming features. In L’Enfant, the film which won the prestigious Palm D’Or award in the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, the directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne achieve just that. The movie opens with waif-like 18-year-old Sonia (Deborah François) returning to her flat with her newborn baby to find that her boyfriend Bruno (Jeremie Renier) has sub-let it to strangers. We realise that this sort of behaviour is normal from Bruno – he lives his life panhandling, begging and burgling. “Jobs are for losers,” he says, when he gets the chance to earn some honest money. Shortly into the film, while Sonia is waiting in line for some benefit money, he makes himself scarce and sells the baby to an adoption agency for a wad of cash. “Where’s Jimmy?” asks Sonia, when she gets back. “I sold him,” he replies, matter of factly.

L’Enfant is not a comfortable film to watch. The Dardenne brothers made their name making harsh documentaries about the realities of life on the margins of society in grotty industrial Belgian cities. L’Enfant dramatises these realities: Bruno is suddenly out of his depth as he comes to terms with the consequences of his actions, and tries, in his own way, to redeem himself. ‘What a bastard,’ you think, as you start rooting for him. It’s a powerful, unforgettable and tragic journey. DL

Enfant terrible - Jeremie Renier as a dysfunctional teenage
father in the latest ouvre from the Freres Dardennes
Gardner Arts Centre, University of Sussex
When? 8pm
How Much? £5/£4
Gardner Arts Centre
(t) 01273 685861
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