To quote a friend and fellow Reverse Shotter during a pre-screening conversation about L’Enfant, the question wasn’t “can it top The Son?” (a difficult proposition, considering that film’s unassailable perfection) but rather “where, exactly, do the Dardennes go next?” The answer: right back to the same well that’s yielded what is hands down one of the strongest bodies of work in post-90s cinema.
So yeah, ho-hum, another masterpiece. L’Enfant (the title, like that of The Son, is eloquently misleading, and that’s all I’ll say about the story) is more of the same from everybody’s favourite fraternal pair of Belgian neo-realists, and while you wouldn’t mistake a frame of it for a work by anybody else, the characteristic rigor of their approach (long handheld takes, only diegetic sound, etc.) somehow results in a film that is utterly, startlingly spontaneous from start to finish. And about that finish: nobody—nobody, nobody, nobody—has mastered the final cut-to-black like the Dardennes, maybe ever. The film’s final shot packs the kind of emotional wallop that leads to you dab your eyes in the dark during the end credits so the other critics don’t see you teary-eyed upon exiting—exhilarated and rightly elated—into daylight.