No film I’ve seen in the last several months has stayed with me in the same profound and heartwrenching way as Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s L’Enfant (The Child). I like the term “moral thriller” to describe their work, as some critics have used, because it accurately reflects the delicate investigations into human nature as well as the raw riveting pull of their stories. If any foreign language art films are to survive in the U.S., it is movies like the bold political suspenser of Cache or the compelling verite thriller of L’Enfant. The film is not a thriller in the conventional sense, of course, but I’d argue that the protagonist’s potential path towards redemption feels as urgent and captivating as waiting for a ticking time-bomb to explode.
I must admit I find it hard sometimes to justify recommendations of the work of Hou Hsiao-hsien, Jia Zhang-ke or Alexandre Sukurov, filmmakers whose movies I sometimes find too oblique, but you just can’t argue with a succinct and emotionally consuming film like L’Enfant. It’s only March, but I’d expect this film to place high on many a critic’s top-ten list, including mine.