The Unknown Girl (La fille inconnue) (2016)

JEAN-PIERRE DARDENNE, LUC DARDENNE

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5/, 2016, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .   Screenplay by , Cinematography by Produced by Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by Cannes Film Festival 2016.   Toronto International Film Festival 2016.

Adele Haenel in The Unknown Girl

plays a young doctor who has just finished her internship at a small practice in Lieges and is preparing to take a job at a larger clinic that she earned through the excellence of her work while still in training. One particular night after a difficult session with her own intern, she refuses to answer the doorbell when it rings late at night, telling her younger charge that patients must be kept in their place in order that doctors don’t run out of the energy they need to treat them, but the following day she receives devastating news: a young woman’s murdered body has been found on the beach and, as the police know she ran down Haenel’s street, they want to know if they can see her security camera footage. When it turns out that the murder victim was the doorbell she ignored, Haenel becomes obsessed with finding out who this woman is, not necessarily to solve the crime but to simply uncover her identity.  It’s possible that Haenel wants to assuage her own guilt, or maybe it’s her life spent wanting to heal people, but as she begins to ask around, she ruffles enough feathers that serious threats come her way warning her to leave the issue alone.  The Brothers Dardenne have filmed another one of their subtle tales of human emotion being processed through a smooth series of continuous actions, gliding through the lead character’s medical duties with the bewitching sense of ritual that marks all their best work, and gleaning charismatic but never overt performances from their actors. Its power is knocked off kilter only by the nagging sense of a lecture hiding behind the most mundane of actions, the Dardennes’ effort to respond to rising European right-wing extremism with a story of someone who is making an immigrant stranger’s tragedy her own self-indulgence is Grand Messaging on their part, but not always painfully so.

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