This is the most promising title in December, not a great month for new releases. It is the latest film from Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Their track record over the years offers series of very fine films. Their work is best described as social realism. They started their career with documentaries and there is still a touch of the documentarily style about their films. But there screenwriting also offers drams that are intense as well as socially relevant.
They won the Cannes Festival Palme d’Or in 1999 with Rosetta, which followed the efforts of a teenage girl to free herself from a dysfunctional family situation. The Son (Le Fils) was nominated for the same prize in 2002. This tale studied a young man and a relationship with a surrogate father. The Child (L’enfant) was again the winner in 2005. This was an intense drama about parents living on welfare and their newly born child. Lorna’s Silence (Le Silence de Lorna) received a another nomination for a study of a young woman who undertakers an arranged marriage. Once again in 2011 the brothers were nominated for The Kid with a Bike (Le Gamin au vélo), a more upbeat tale about a young boy and an effective surrogate mother. Two Days, One Night (Deux jours, une nuit) also received a similar nomination in 2014. This film parcelled both the British I, Daniel Blake and the French La loi du marché in the tale of a young female factory worker.
Now this year The Unknown Girl received the Dardenne Brothers seventh nomination for this prestigious award. Clearly Cannes juries like these filmmakers: deservedly so. The films are simply yet beautifully composed. They work with their cast with real skill. And the stories they present are intriguing and powerfully relevant. Their latest film follows an investigation into the death of an unidentified young woman. It sounds like familiar Dardenne territory and whilst is has received mixed reviews it remains a promising film to watch.
The Dardenne’s have explored the world of the young, exploited oppressed and disenfranchised youth in many of their films. It is remarkable that they do so with such skill since they are both now in their fifties. And in that time they have produced a series of films that are equal to the work of other leading European filmmakers.
Note the film opens today with the only early screening. The following ones on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday all run up to or pass 11 p.m.