Directed by: JEAN-PIERRE
AND LUC DARDENNE
Starring: JEREMIE RENIER, DEBORAH FRANCOIS
Released by: Sony Pictures
Note: (in French with subtitles)
Short: The winner of the Golden Palm at
the Cannes Film Festival is a gritty and engrossing
study of hapless young parents gone out of control.
Hate and an Empty Carriage
don't know the words for "heinous scumbag" in
French, but that's what we'd call Bruno to his face if
we did. This 20-year-old wheeler-dealer-stealer (played
by Jérémie Renier) in an unnamed Belgian
city meets his newborn son at the beginning of this film,
and before we know it he's sold the boy on the black market.
Then he goes to buy cigarettes—hey, a man's gotta
have his priorities straight.
Bruno tells his 18-year-old girlfriend Sonia (Déborah
François) what he's done, she faints nearly dead,
and he ransoms the kid from the equally heinous scumbag
baby brokers. Only when Sonia kicks Bruno out does it
dawn on him that maybe—just maybe—he's done
something he shouldn't have. The rest of the film careens
through his frenetic attempts to make everything right.
which won the Golden Palm at last year's Cannes Film Festival,
moves so quickly and the acting is so deft that you hardly
notice its depressing premise. Its realist Dogma 95 style
(natural light, no special effects, handheld cameras,
etc.) lends a gritty, handmade feel that suits these hapless
characters and their haphazard lives.
is so natural as Sonia that it was hard to believe that
this was her film debut. Yet it's really Renier, as the
antihero, who keeps it going. He is a riveting young actor—his
Bruno is just boyish enough to be dangerous, and just
dangerous enough to be boyishly attractive. He may not
display emotion on his face, but his eyes reveal a mind
always working, always spinning, always plotting, and
you certainly can't trust his apologies. Ever. Even when
he finally breaks down you're not sure that it's real.
fact, the more we thought about it, we weren't sure which
child the movie's title was referring to, but ultimately
we're glad we were let in on the story.