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Le Fils

August 30, 2010

Le Fils (2002)
Directors: Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
Actors: Olivier Gourmet, Morgan Marinne, Isabelle Soupart

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Synopsis: Olivier (Olivier Gourmet) takes Francis (Morgan Marinne) as one of his apprentices in a carpentry workshop, although Olivier’s motives appear increasingly murky….

Review: Sandwiched in-between the Dardennes’ Palme d’Or winning masterpieces Rosetta and L’Enfant, Le Fils is not quite to those exceptional levels, but is still another superior drama from within their distinctive Belgian working-class milieu. Where Le Fils slightly errs is through its perpetual insistence on the subtext and suspense of its narrative plot-hook (the ambiguous and unsettling link between a carpenter and his new student), where as Rosetta and L’Enfant seemed much more expansive bulletins from the ‘real world’ where the concentrated dynamics of plot emerged organically from the visceral portrait of its characters and their environs. In Le Fils, the Dardennes seem content to stalk protagonist Olivier Gourmet as he skulks around his carpentry and ramshackle home. This leads to a claustrophobic atmosphere with the camera hugging Gourmet’s hunched frame and shoulders, and although it’s a trope the Dardennes arguably overindulge, it does help emphasise the sense of burden and latent rage in Gourmet’s character.

Favouring stark and abrupt endings that totally undercut the Hollywood model for tidy resolution, this time the Dardennes get it slightly wrong. For a film that has strongly honoured the tenets of plot, cutting the story just after the climatic revelation is less a clever exercise in narrative contradiction, than an example of undercooked storytelling and a tacit admission that there is nowhere for this slight film to go. (August 2009)

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