2008 // Belgium // Christophe Van Rompaey // March 26, 2009 // Theatrical Print
C - Scruffily endearing and accented with a gratifying guilelessness, Christophe Van Rompaey's Moscow, Belgium is a working-schlub dramedy with a clear sense of its operating parameters. The tale of separated forty-something working mom Matty (Barbara Sarafian) and her fumbling affair with a twenty-something truck driver (Jurgen Delnaet) is played for mellow laughs and cringing melodrama. The film paints an emotionally detailed but tightly framed portrait of middle-aged confusion and longing, and that's about all it does. Hence the absence of any substantial thematic aims, counter-balanced somewhat by a studious regard for its characters. The peripheral roles are cartoonish, but the principals are plump enough to reveal fresh layers in each successive scene. With the exception of Sarafian, who uses her eyes, mouth, and even hair to delicate effect, the performances don't exactly dazzle, nor does the script. There's uncertainty in the story, and refreshingly so, but there is also triteness and contrivance. What makes Moscow, Belgium more pleasurable than slicker romantic fare is the loose structure of it conversations and its penchant for subdued observation elsewhere. These don't make the film a marvel or anything, but do render it more appealing than the genre's usual ephemera.